End of life issues
Planning for the end of your life is a very sensitive and personal experience. It’s important you do what feels right for you, when it feels right. But being well informed can help you feel more in control and be confident that your wishes are known.
Information Guide 51: Thinking about end of life contains useful information on this topic.
How do I talk to my friends and family?
It can help to talk to family and friends so that they know your wishes and preferences as you reach the end of your life. These conversations can be hard but the following suggestions may help:
- Let your family know ahead of time what you want to discuss so the conversation doesn't take them by surprise
- Choose a time and place where you won't be disturbed or rushed
- Don't worry about trying to cover everything in one conversation
- Consider writing notes beforehand about what you want to discuss
- Don't feel embarrassed if any of you get emotional. Be honest and talk about all your feelings, not just the positive ones.
Family and friends can be reluctant to have these conversations - perhaps they don't want to think about your death, or they're worried about saying the wrong things. It might reassure family and friends to tell them that it would help you to talk. Remember there is no right or wrong way to start these conversations. Choose the people you want to talk to, and only share as much information as you feel comfortable with. And if you don't want to talk, that's OK too.
Contact Dying Matters for leaflets on how to start conversations about dying, death and bereavement
Speaking to your doctor
If you have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, talk to your GP and medical team about any questions, worries or fears you and your family and friends might have. Your doctor should explain your condition and treatment options in a way that you understand and answer any questions you have.
It might be useful to discuss the following topics:
- what to expect as your illness progresses
- the pros and cons of your treatment options
- any treatments you don't want to receive
- your life expectancy
- where you would like to die
- the different methods of pain relief available
- the practical and emotional support available
- the physical and emotional changes you could experience.
Depending on your condition there may be a helpline staffed by specialist nurses and advisors who can offer you practical advice and emotional support. For example:
Macmillan Cancer Support has a helpline
The British Lung Foundation has a specialist helpline for people with COPD
How can I plan for my future care?
Advance care planning is a specific form of end-of-life care planning. It means thinking about how you would like to be cared for in the future if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. Advance care planning includes:
- conversations between you, your family and medical team about your condition and how you would like to be cared for as it progresses
- making an advance statement of wishes, which tells those involved in your care how you would like to be cared for
- making an advance decision to refuse treatment in specific circumstances, which is legally binding and must be followed by all those involved in your care
- creating a Lasting Power of Attorney which give someone you trust the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you were no longer able or no longer wanted to make decisions yourself.
Plan your funeral
A funeral allows friends and family to say goodbye and celebrate your life. Talking about what you would like and putting some plans in place can reassure your family and friends and means your funeral is more likely to reflect your wishes. Our factsheet has further information:
Support for family and friends
For more information call Age Cymru Advice on 0300 303 44 98