End-of-life shouldn’t be the end of (financial) livelihood!

Caring for your loved one during the end of their life, however well-managed their death is, and however prepared you may be, can still be stressful. So, the last thing that you should be worried about is whether the care of your loved one is going to stress you financially as well as emotionally.

While many more people are starting to take their finances and retirement more seriously, an equal number are not prepared to deal with the financial burdens of end-of-life care.

Preparing for the end-of-life, whether one’s own or that of a loved one, means that you are prepared for all aspects of care, and that includes managing end-of-life care in a way that insures quality care, while preventing caregiver burnout and depletion of resources, financial and others.

While this subject may be an uncomfortable one to think about, the fact is that if end-of-life care isn’t addressed as it relates to extent and duration of treatment, and if safeguards aren’t put into place to make sure that end-of-life care doesn’t deplete and dissipate monetary resources, then you and/or those caring for a loved one may suffer additional circumstances at a time when emotional stress is high and the ability to make decisions is low.

From the medical and health-care angle, it’s good to have an end-of-life plan in place in the form of a Living Will, or Durable Medical Power of Attorney, and any supporting documents that will prevent the medical system from swallowing up your resources. I have seen countless families endure the rigors of aggressive end-of-life care, sometimes against their loved one’s wishes, only to be consumed after their loved one’s death by the financial hardship of that care.

If you do not wish to have heroics, or if you have limited resources to support such interventions, it is vital that you make your wishes known ahead of time. A number of studies have shown that while end-of-life care may not compromised due to financial considerations, the degree of burnout and stress that caregivers experience around issues of money and finances for care is significant.

One very good document that every person over the age of 40 (my opinion!) should have in place is known as The Five Wishes Form, which meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in 42 states and the District of Columbia. In the remaining 8 states, (Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Utah) a separate legal state form is required, and one must attach the state document if one wishes to use the Five Wishes document as a guide.

The Five Wishes Form helps a person to determine what kind of measures will and won’t be provided to the person at the end-of-life. Providing this kind of information has two benefits; it insures that one receives exactly the kind of care that one wants in the dying process, PLUS, it provides caregivers with guidelines and – if the person discusses it with them beforehand – it creates an environment of cooperation and preservation of financial and emotional resources.

While having the appropriate forms may not make the care-taking process easier (although it may) making sure that the details are taken care of can prevent resources from being spread thin and this kind of prevention will definitely contribute to the financial tidiness of anyone’s end-0f-life care. Besides, filling out a form like The Five Wishes Form does something that no amount of money can do, it forces us to face the fact that we will die and to take an honest look at what we want for ourselves and for those caring for us.