Planning for the inevitable

Helping an elderly relative who needs a high level of care in their final years is one of the most stressful things most people will ever experience.

To be as prepared as possible when their time comes, it is important to get everything out in the open and make plans ahead of time. Here is a look at how getting yours and your loved one’s affairs in order can make their final years as stress-free as possible for everyone.

Take care of yourself

It is impossible to properly care for an elderly relative if you don’t take care of yourself first. It’s easy for your own health to suffer because of stress, worry, and the physical rigors that can come with caring for an elderly loved one, and the sight of you looking stressed out, sleep deprived, or under-nourished will only make the person you’re caring for worry about you.

Don’t over-do it. Make sure you get plenty of rest and relaxation. Find the time to eat well, try to limit drinking, and get at least a little bit of exercise. If it all becomes too much for you, speak up. Talk about the stress you’re feeling with a partner, friend, or therapist. Having everything out in the open can help you cope with the pressure of looking after your relative in their final years.

Have a treatment plan if they fall ill

 People are living longer than ever, but there are concerns about the quality of life many people experience in their final years. Doctors often try to treat the disease for as long as possible, which is not always the right course of action when quality of life is taken into account.

For elderly people who fall victim to a serious illness with low chances of survival, invasive treatments like chemotherapy and surgery can offer an extra few years or months if they’re successful. However, that time is often spent with a reduced quality of life due to pain and side effects. This is often brought on by well-meaning relatives who are not thinking about the inevitable and are not ready to let go.

The key is to discuss these matters before they happen. Knowing your loved one’s wishes ahead of time can help you choose when to end treatment and instead focus on making their final months as comfortable as possible.

Last will

Wills can be tricky affairs. It is a standard practice for a person’s last will and testament to be kept secret and read once they have passed on, but this is a recipe for drama and disappointment. Roughly a third of all people die “intestate”, which means no will has been left. In this case, the estate must pass through a complex set of legal rules to determine how any money, assets, and remaining debts will be distributed.

It is important to ensure that your loved one has prepared a will in plenty of time. It’s not necessary for them to share exactly what is contained in the will, but it is a good idea to ensure they have included the basics.

Naming an executor: This is somebody who is responsible for administering the will. Their responsibilities could involve paying taxes and debts in addition to disbursing funds and assets from the estate. Most people name a trusted family member as executor, but it can be anyone.

Power of attorney: This involves naming a person to make decisions if the holder of the will is not able to. This can be durable (remains in effect until death) or temporary (with an expiration date requiring renewal). There is also such thing as a “springing” durable power of attorney. This is where power of attorney “springs” into action only when or if the person is not able to make their own decisions through serious illness or other impairment.

Know their final wishes

 Everybody wants to know their loved ones will be looked after before they pass away, so it’s important to ensure arrangements around the funeral are all taken care of. For example, your loved one’s wishes concerning their earthly remains will need to be discussed so that the correct burial or cremation services can be arranged.

It is also important to talk about your loved one’s wishes when it comes to organ donation. While many people carry donor cards, the next of kin still has to give permission for donation, so make sure you discuss their wishes ahead of time. With those formalities taken care of, everyone can focus on making the most of their time together.