Do you know their wishes?

A person may become unable to communicate their wishes; if they were unconscious, would you know how they would want to be looked after? And have they made their wishes for after their death clear? Try to make sure you know about:

  • where they would want to spend the end of their life
  • any preferences they have for their medical treatment and care. Have they made an advance decision to refuse treatment or an advance statement, or would they like to make one?
  • whether anyone has power of attorney for them, and if so which type. Or if not, do they want to appoint attorneys?
  • their wishes for their funeral and anything else they would like to be done in their memory
  • whether they have a pre-paid funeral plan or funeral insurance and where the details can be found
  • whether they have made a will and where this is kept. If they have not made a will, it is important for them to do so.
  • whether they are on the Organ Donor Register (from spring 2020 the system will change to an 'opt-out' system, so check whether they have opted out or whether they would like to)
  • their wishes for any dependants
  • their wishes for any pets.

Practical matters

These can often be overlooked, but are also crucial to think about. For example, if you’re living with someone, you may each have practical tasks you tend to take responsibility for and which the other person may know little about.

Make sure the person who is dying has made a list of their bank accounts, credit cards, bills, and insurance policies, and that you or someone else knows where this is kept. They might also need to share online passwords and tell you what they want to be done with any social media accounts.

It can be easy to overlook simple things. Consider:

  • do you know how all the appliances, the heating system and any alarms work?
  • will there be an effect on your income? You might want to look into whether there are any benefits you will be able to claim.
  • do you rely on them for any tasks, such as cooking or driving? You may want to consider learning new skills (councils and local charities may run courses in basic skills like DIY and cooking) or see if there are local services that can help you.

Where will you find emotional support?

The death of someone you know, particularly someone you’re close to, can be devastating. Even if the person has not yet died, you may already be experiencing some form of grief. You might be grieving for how your relationship used to be, or how the person was before their illness, or anticipating the loss their death will cause.

Everyone deals with bereavement differently, but there is support available if you want it. You might want to talk to your GP, friends and family, or a bereavement counsellor. Read our guide Coping with bereavement for more information.

Professionals who are involved with caring for the person who is dying may also be able to help you. For example, hospices provide a range of support for patients and their families, including bereavement support.

You may also find support online from other people going through a similar experience. For example, Gransnet is an online forum for over-50s where you can talk about topics such as caring, health and bereavement.

Next steps

Read our information on how to start the conversation about end-of-life planning.

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