Advance care planning, legal matters and funerals
Planning for the future
In this section some of the practical issues involving important ‘paper work’ are discussed, to help you and your relative plan for the future.
Advance Care Planning (ACP)
Death can happen to any of us at any time. When we are healthy we do not like to think about making a will, how or where we would like to die or, who can make decisions on our behalf if we are no longer able to communicate our wishes. Advance Care Planning takes pressure off you as a carer as it allows your relative to make their wishes known about questions like going to hospital or having particular types of medical treatment at the end of life. As a carer, it is important that you know what your relative would want, in the event that they cannot communicate these wishes for themselves. If this is something which interests you and your relative you should discuss it with your GP who will be able to provide you with information to guide you through the process.
Your relative does not need to complete the ACP form on their own. It should be part of a private, unhurried discussion with a trusted, skilled health professional, your relative and yourself. Remember also, what is recorded on an ACP can be changed at any time for as long as your relative remains able to express their wishes.
A list of resources to help you with an Advance Care Plan can be found here: Planning Ahead
Preparing a will
Preparing a will may seem a daunting task for your relative and it can often be an emotional and difficult topic to discuss. It can be satisfying once this is done as your relative may feel better knowing that they have put their financial affairs in order. In most cases wills are fairly easy to prepare. There are ‘do it yourself kits’ available or, if help is needed, a solicitor can prepare a will for a fee.
Making decisions on behalf of your relative
Sometimes, if your relative is unable to express their wishes, you may seek formal legal permission to make decisions on their behalf. Many carers prefer to think ahead and arrange this option before their relative becomes too unwell. This is often a component of advance care planning. If you are concerned about medical or legal matters you can consider applying for a ‘medical power of attorney’ and/or ‘enduring power of attorney’ (this will vary depending on where you live). For example in NI, if someone cannot make their own healthcare decisions. Their senior clinician is still responsible for making a ‘best interest decision’ for them taking into account any formal record of advanced care planning. If your relative is interested in setting up an enduring power of attorney it is a good idea that they seek independent legal advice.
This may be a difficult subject to discuss but it may be helpful to talk to your relative. Some people also like to write down their medical care choices in advance. For example, people may express a wish not to be resuscitated, or not to be placed on a mechanical ventilator. It may help if you talk to your relative about any medical preferences they have. It is best if they write their preferences down and have them witnessed, dated and signed. Your GP, other doctor or another healthcare professional, a solicitor or a social worker can assist you with more information about these and other options and advise you on your relative’s legal rights.
When should funeral arrangements be made?
Some people want to be involved in planning their own funeral, while others avoid this issue. It is, helpful to know what your relative would prefer, particularly in relation to important decisions like cremation or burial. Your relative may also want to contribute to decisions such as the funeral ceremony, music preferences, location, etc. Some people may wish to pay for their funeral in advance.
Funeral Directors vary in cost and style. The funeral director will need details about full names and birth dates as well as specific information about the funeral format. The GP, healthcare provider or hospital chaplain can assist you in identifying the questions you may like to ask when supporting your loved one in choosing a funeral service or you can access guidelines here . If preparing for your relative’s funeral is not something you feel able to do yourself, ask a friend or relative to help you.