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If a family member begins a gentle conversation with you around your practical end of life wishes, you may be a little surprised. Especially if this is not something you have discussed previously.
This post considers why planning ahead can be a real gift to loved ones and why discussing this topic is something that we should not be afraid of. It also gives tips on what you can do if you are concerned about their intentions or worried you are being scammed.
Why do they want to plan for my death?
If family members have started to ask you what your future wishes are out of the blue, this may raise alarm bells for you. If you feel uncomfortable about this, the first step is to establish whether this is a genuine offer of help.
Is it coming from a trusted family member who genuinely has your best interests at heart? If this is the case, it may be they have realised that one day, they will be responsible for making decisions on your behalf. If they feel that they know very little about your choices and affairs, it is sensible of them to start to plan ahead with you. Be assured, they are likely to feel uncomfortable having this chat with you too.
End of life planning is still such a taboo topic. Discussing this can make people sad and worry about no longer being here. However there is a growing movement to make these conversations part of normal life planning. It is not something that should only be considered when people reach a certain age or become unwell. The fact is – we never know when we will need help in an emergency or when we will pass away. Having these practical conversations if done properly can be empowering and a gift to your loved ones.
Why are they interested in my future wishes now?
If you do not have certain affairs in order such as drafting a will or a lasting power of attorney, they may be concerned about their ability to be able in the future. As this is not something that people deal with often, it can be a very overwhelming responsibility. They may have seen other family or friends struggle with this and want to make sure that you do not have a similar experience.
Your family member may want to make sure they have the right authorities in place to help deal with you and your affairs. These documents can enable them to support and represent you, ensuring your wishes are followed. This is not only for end of life matters but also for if you become unwell or unable to make your own decisions.
How to approach end of life planning conversations
Your family member may be concerned that they actually know very little about your personal and practical affairs. Do they know your future arrangements – practical, legal, medical and financial?
Do they know where and how to access important information in your home? Do they know where your valuables are kept? If they do not know this information now, they will need to know it one day.
Consider their circumstances too. Does this family member have a busy life with hectic work and family schedules? They may be anxious that should they need to care for you in an emergency, they would not know where to begin. This will be a difficult time for them too.
It will be even harder if they do not know where or how to locate key information. This will be made even harder if they do not live nearby or you are not particularly close.
Start the conversation
The best way to start the conversation is by starting small. You do not need to make all of your plans and decisions in one day. You will find that over time, your choices will change anyway. It is best to break this down in to very small, manageable steps.
You could start with a general conversation about what types of bank accounts you have. You do not to disclose any details that you are not comfortable with sharing. Mentioning the name of your bank could lead to a general conversation of what type of accounts you have and related paperwork is kept where. This will help them know where to find documents when they are needed.
Why not discuss your belongings? Have a chat about your valuable and treasured items. Share with them what you would like to happen to them one day. Start a discussion around practical arrangements within your home, what service providers and suppliers you have.
Keeping it as part of a light hearted chat can alleviate some of the fear of discussing end of life issues.
I think I am being scammed....what should I do?
If you are still concerned and feel uncomfortable about these conversations, why not discuss this with someone you trust. If you still feel that they may not have your best interests at heart – talk to someone.
If you have a good friend that you can confide in, you could raise your concerns with them. They may be able to see it from a different perspective and reassure you that this is being done to alleviate future pressures. If they also sympathise with your worries, they may be able to support you to seek further advice.
Independent Age provide some valuable resources and advice.
Silverline provide a free confidential telephone helpline for older people and is open 24/7. They can listen to your concerns independently and provide advice as to what action to take if necessary.
Citizens Advice Bureau can help with advice as to what steps to take if you think you are being scammed
Create your own Sunset Plan
Stay in control and create your own Sunset Plan. This can be helpful in case of an emergency as well as documenting your future wishes. You can list your important practical information and where to find it, safely in your home.
You can reassure family members that you have made your future arrangements but you do not yet wish to share them with others. You can reveal as little or as much of your future plans with your loved ones – this is completely your decision.
If there are any gaps in your future plans and you still need to make arrangements for a will or Lasting Power of Attorney, why not get those finalised and let family members know you have this in hand.
Take your time and make this part of your normal life planning activities. Then get on with enjoying life! Have peace of mind knowing this information will be there one day when it is needed.
Why not share this post on social media and encourage others to have the conversation with their loved ones.