What’s your five-year plan? What about ten years from now? Twenty? Making plans is all very good and fine, but experience tells us that planning can only do so much. So what is the advantage of life planning, or end-of-life planning, as it is more often termed? For one thing, you can’t plan the end of your life if it has already ended. It’s also difficult to plan the end of your life while it’s happening. Still, statistics show that only 20-30 percent of Americans put their healthcare wishes into writing. The time for end-of-life planning is now so that when that time does come, you and your family members will be prepared financially and otherwise to deal with everything.
Plan now to make things easier later
When someone’s life draws to a close, there is actually quite a lot to consider and plan. Multiple decisions will come before the funeral planning is necessary, such as making an advanced directive, appointing a power of attorney, creating a living will, and obtaining adequate end-of-life care to ensure comfort, among other personal and financial planning matters. With so much to discuss and settle, it’s no surprise that the entire enterprise is given the name end-of-life planning.
Now imagine dealing with all of these decisions when you are at your lowest health, or leaving all of the planning for your closest loved ones while they are coming to terms with your passing. Although end-of-life planning might not sound cheerful, it’s doesn’t have to be a negative experience if you opt to do it in advance.
Make your plans flexible and documents fluid
It’s important to note that even if you’re really on the ball and have everything in place by the time you’re 50, things will still change and you must allow for such changes as the years pass. “End-of-life plans are not one-time events,” says Dr. Julie Masters, chair of the Department of Gerontology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “Documents should be fluid. Revise periodically, for instance, at age 50, 80, 90, etc. Regularly have conversations with financial planners and doctors as well as family members.”
If you are coming to the planning party a little late in the game, you’ll obviously like to be more specific about your plans, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Still, the benefits whenever you choose to do end-of-life planning is that you’ll start having conversations that are both necessary and meaningful. There’s no perfect time to start your planning, but sooner is always better than later.
Focus on values, health issues, and scenarios
Just like any type of planning, end-of-life planning should have three main areas of focus: the carrying out of your beliefs and values, possible health issues and the necessary treatments, and your desires in different scenarios from a stroke to advanced Alzheimer’s. It may be difficult to contemplate such things happening, but with a little planning and consideration, you and your family will all feel much more at peace before and during the event.
It’s evident that making decisions regarding end-of-life planning is much more difficult during a crisis situation, so don’t wait until you are “older” or seriously ill. Instead, take action and make decisions now to feel empowered and at peace. If your financial situation is what’s keeping you from making a plan, get help today to cover the costs and obtain better peace of mind for everyone.
Ms. Harris is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys reading, triathlons, and baking.