5 Things we should consider when Planning our Future

Published: 22/05/2019

Talking about death and dying has always been considered a cultural taboo.  Speaking to others about what we want to happen in event of illness or when we die is not an easy conversation to have, and one many people choose to avoid.  

Talking about death and dying has always been considered a cultural taboo.  Speaking to others about what we want to happen in event of illness or when we die is not an easy conversation to have, and one many people choose to avoid.  

We often avoid these conversations as we can feel that it is morbid; we may fear upsetting our loved ones; or, in a situation where our loved one has been given a terminal diagnosis this type of conversation can raise emotions and the reality of the situation.  

It is important that certain things are in place in the event of injury, illness, or death, which is why we shouldn’t shy away from having that conversation if we want our wishes carried through.  Ensuring we have expressed our wishes can save our families and friends from having to make decisions they may find very difficult, and it can also prevent families and friends being divided on the decisions that have to be made.

1. Planning your Care

If you had the decision where you wanted to spend your days, where would it be?

There are different options available but depending on the person and their situation, the options may vary.

Care at Home – Most people wish to stay at home and be cared for in their familiar surroundings.   If you wish to be cared for at home, Community teams such as Domiciliary Care Assistants, GP’s, District and Community Nurses, Hospice nurses, can be there to support you.

Hospice Care – Hospice care is often mistaken as caring for people who are dying from cancer, but hospice care is available to people who have terminal illnesses and they offer many different services.  For example, in-patient care, care at home, day-patient care, and symptom and pain management.

Residential/Nursing Home – These settings offer long term 24 hour care for people who need extra care and support to ensure their needs are all met.

Hospital – Most people prefer not to spend time in hospital but in some circumstances being in hospital is the best place to offer the care they need.  

2. Wills

It is important to ensure that you have stated in a legally binding will who should receive your possessions following your death, dying without a Will means that the law decides who receives from your estate.  It is important to note that: if you are not married to your partner, they are not legally bound to receive anything, and, if you die with no living relatives, your estate belongs to the government.  

Not only does a Will ensure your wishes are carried through, but it also can prevent unnecessary distress at an already difficult time. 

Certain points should be remembered when making your Will to ensure it is legal and valid:
  • You are 18+
  • You have full mental capacity
  • It is made voluntarily, in writing, and at a Solicitors office
  • An executor is appointed, and they are happy to serve as executor – 2 executors is preferable and they must be 18 years +
  • Keep your will safe, e.g. with your solicitor, your bank, or a registered Will storage service
  • Update your will if there is a change in circumstances, e.g. marriage or divorce, sale of property etc.
Wills can also be made in regards to medical decisions and treatments you don’t want in the event that you are not able to express informed consent; these are referred to as Living Wills or Advanced Decision

Living wills can be made by anyone over 18 who have the capacity to understand the decision to state the treatment they are refusing.  It is recommended that everyone should have a Living Will as none of us know when we might lose capacity in the event of an accident, fall, or unexpected illness such as a Stroke.

 A Living Will should be properly witnessed, and it should be reviewed if circumstances change such as a new health diagnosis.  If you have a Living Will ensure that family, friends, and/or health professionals are aware so they can ensure that your wishes are upheld.  This is not a legally binding document, but it is an expression of your desires, values, and beliefs.

For more information consult the Citizens Advice website.

3. Enduring power of Attorney

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is a legal document that allows you to nominate 1 or more people to make decisions or take actions on your behalf.  To appoint an EPA, you must be over 18 and have the mental capacity to understand the role of an EPA. 

When appointing an Attorney it is important to seek legal advice.  You do not have to appoint all powers to one attorney, you can have a number of attorneys that you can appoint certain powers to, for example, 1 attorney could manage your financial affairs, and another attorney could be appointed to make decisions regarding your health and care.  

For the Enduring Power of Attorney to become effective it must be registered with the High Court.  This is only necessary when your attorney believes you are no longer able to manage and control your affairs, i.e. when you do not hold the mental capacity to make decisions. 

Further information can be found at:

Courts & Tribunals ServicesThe Office of Care and Protection
Room 2.2A, Second Floor,                                                           
Royal Courts of Justice,
Chichester Street,
Belfast
BT1 3JF

Telephone: 028 9072 5953

4. Organ Donation

If you wish to be an organ donor it is recommended that you sign the NHS Organ Donation register.  If you haven’t signed the register, it doesn’t mean your organs can’t be donated but it does mean that your family will be asked to make the decision about organ donation on your behalf.

donor cardWhether you are a registered donor or not, it is important to talk to your family and friends about your feelings regarding organ donation.  If you have signed up as a donor, talking to them about your decision will prepare them to fulfil your wishes with confidence if the time comes.  If you haven’t signed the donation register, you should make your wishes known to your loved ones as they will be approached to make the decision.  At a time where this decision has to be made, comfort can be taken from knowing they are respectfully fulfilling your wishes.

Organs and tissues that can be donated include: kidneys; heart; liver; lungs; pancreas; small bowel; corneas; and, heart valves.

Find out more information or register as a donor.

5. Funeral wishes

Planning your funeral can be done in your own time and in private if you wish.  Jotting down your wishes and ensuring that your family or friends know that you have done it can spare them from making difficult decisions at an emotional time.  Pre-planning how you would like your funeral can be a comfort to family and friends as they will know that your funeral will be just how you want it.

Things to consider if you wish to pre-plan your funeral:
  • Would you prefer to be buried or cremated?
  • What readings would you like, and who would you like to read them?
  • What songs/music would you like?
  • What would you like to wear?
  • Where would you like your funeral reception to be held?
  • What sort of headstone or memorial would you like?
  • Would you like flowers or, would you prefer donations in lieu of flowers to a chosen charity?
  
Just because we think we know someone, doesn’t always mean we know what they are thinking.  By preparing for the unexpected and by having that difficult conversation with those closest to us, we can have peace of mind that our wishes will be carried through and we can spare our family and friends from having to make those difficult decisions.