Legal End-of-Life Decisions
One of the first steps in end-of-life planning is completing a will or advance directive (AD). A will is a legal document that indicates how a person would like their wealth and assets distributed and what they would like done to them once they pass away. When someone does not create a will before their death, the closest surviving relative will be assigned executor, and assets get distributed to relatives and spouses.
When creating a will, a person declares an executor of the will who will be legally responsible for carrying out financial obligations pointed out in the will once the person has passed away. It can take months to settle an estate following the death of a loved one. Creating a will can make the process quicker when you pass away.
A will typically includes various assets, including real estate, bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, valuables, personal possessions, and business assets. A will should include other important decisions, including who will take care of minor children or pets, organ donation, funeral options, and how end-of-life expenses will be covered.
Living Wills and Living Trusts
A living will specify a patient’s wishes regarding medical care and other important decisions while they are still alive. When a patient can no longer communicate or make informed decisions about their health, a physician may use a patient’s living will to determine who to communicate to in regards to the patient’s wishes for end-of-life care. A living will lose legal power once the patient has passed away.
A living trust is a legal document, or fiduciary relationship, and is another method of estate transfer. A person, called the grantor, places their assets into the trust in which the assets will remain until death. Once the grantor has passed away, the assets are transferred to the trust beneficiaries designated by the grantor.
When creating a living trust, the grantor chooses a representative, called a successor trustee, that will be in charge of transferring assets. Living trusts can often allow the distribution of assets to move quicker than a legal will. While wills are public, living trusts are kept private.
A do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order is a legal document that states a patient does not want to be resuscitated in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest. The order is signed by a patient, doctor, and witness. Medical staff will not perform CPR or surgical resuscitation if there is a known DNR. Patients with mesothelioma have the option to sign a DNR and can contact their mesothelioma attorney for more information.
Power of Attorney
Once a mesothelioma patient receives a terminal diagnosis, they may begin making end-of-life decisions, including assigning a power of attorney. A power of attorney is an individual chosen by a patient to make decisions on behalf of the patient. The power of attorney can make treatment decisions on a patient’s behalf, such as medications or life support. Mesothelioma patients often assign someone to make decisions about their estate and other financial affairs.
Pain Management and In-Home Care
Towards the end of life, mesothelioma patients can experience chest pain, coughing, dizziness, and other difficult symptoms. Mesothelioma patients may turn to in-home care to spend the rest of their days surrounded by loved ones. In-home care allows a patient to receive pain management care in the comfort of their own home.
Patients who choose in-home care have access to 24-hour assistance with feeding, administering medications, and bathing. Choosing an in-home care service can be intimidating due to the wide range of options. Mesothelioma patients can ask their medical team for recommendations for well-known and trusted in-home care providers.
Many mesothelioma patients have a life expectancy of less than a year. Patients who want their treatment to focus on pain management can consider hospice care. Through hospice care, patients can receive pain-relieving treatment at home without traveling to a medical facility. The overall goal of hospice care is to alleviate pain and discomfort in the patient’s last weeks.
End-Of-Life Decisions on Funeral Planning
Cancer patients may plan their funerals to help families make important decisions about what they would like done following death. Planning a funeral can be difficult and emotional for patients and loved ones. Caretakers can assist a loved one who is planning their funeral and honor their wishes once they pass away. Things to consider include:
- How the patient wants their remains stored
- If they prefer to have a religious service or non-religious service
- Who the patient wants to deliver the eulogy, post-service gatherings, and pallbearers
Additional End-Of-Life Decisions and Considerations
Patients struggling with financial burdens may be eligible for financial assistance. Programs throughout the United States are available to help patients purchase necessary products such as food, clothes, cell phones, and more. Meal delivery services such as Meals on Wheels can provide older patients with food.
Some medical care team members, such as social workers, are available to educate patients on available resources to help with end-of-life decision-making and costs. Patients and their loved ones can also turn to mesothelioma support groups, caregiver support groups, and other cancer-related groups.
Mesothelioma patients can receive additional funding by filing an asbestos lawsuit. Mesothelioma lawsuits can help cover medical bills, loss of income, and end-of-life costs once the patient passes away.