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How to Develop an Advance Care Plan for Loved Ones

An advance care plan or directive (also known formally as a living will) outlines what end of life medical care – if any – one would or would not like to opt into in case the patient is no longer able to make those decisions when they arise down the line. End of life planning should be given thought and even created with counsel in some instances from doctors, financial advisors, and even loved ones.

If someone close to you has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or late-stage cancer, there are ways for you to offer support and help them to create their advance care plan. Encouraging your loved one towards decisions that empower them in their advance care directive can unburden them and those close to them by ensuring their end of life care is taken care of in the way they would like.

If you’re not sure where to start or how to help, you aren’t alone. Many people put off planning advance care for years, but with the right actions, developing an advance care plan for your loved one can save confusion and hasty decision-making down the line. Here are a few steps to get you and your loved one started.

1. Explore Medical Care Options

Discussing end of life possibilities is a difficult yet necessary conversation to have. The best advance care directive is one that outlines preferences in any possible scenario so that no matter what happens or what decision needs to be made, it is covered within the plan. Going over medical care in the event of considering life support or being incapacitated to make their own decisions is something to discuss with your loved one.

Talking to a loved one about what they would want to see happen in these types of situations will ensure that their wishes are known ahead of time and carried out. It’s certainly not an easy conversation to have, but its importance shouldn’t go overlooked in the case the advance care plan is needed.

2. Identify a Key Decision Maker

In the case that someone is unable to make their own end of life decisions, there needs to be an appointed individual to become the key decision maker or healthcare agent. This person will act in lieu of and make decisions for the patient. Whether it be decisions concerning medical providers, funeral planners, etc. a trusted individual must be present to help make the right decisions. When choosing a key decision maker, be sure that they’re comfortable with taking on such a role.

For some, making end of life decisions for a loved one can be extremely difficult and loaded with emotion. Take this into account and discuss with your loved one when choosing someone to fill this role.

3. Document the Living Will

Having a discussion with your loved one about their advance care plan is an excellent first step, but the decisions made must be documented in their living will. A living will is the legal document that not only outlines but enforces the advance care directive. It is legally binding and should be created with an attorney to ensure the document is compliant and effective. The living will is separate from a traditional will as it is annulled once the patient has passed. Exceptions such as organ donations and autopsy may be included and enforced.

Were You or Your Loved One Diagnosed with a Terminal Illness?

Developing an advance care plan is one factor in end of life planning. If you or a loved one with a terminal illness or late-stage cancer are looking to leverage your life insurance policy to access funds for anything from paying bills to taking a vacation with family, consider Fifth Season Financial’s Funds For Living financial assistance program, which advances you funds based on the face value of your policy while keeping the policy in place.

Disclaimer: Fifth Season Financial is not a financial advisor or consultant and recommends that you speak to an advisor or expert before making any significant financial decisions.

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