Plan today and ease the way for your loved ones.
Die prepared Dying for most of us is going to be not a sudden event but a lengthy process.
One of the dubious benefits of modern medicine is that it has greatly extended that process.
The job of doctors is to prolong life and they can easily, understandably, confuse this with prolonging the act of dying.
Instead of letting us be borne out gently on the tide, they may instead launch a series of desperate, intrusive rearguard actions to stave off the inevitable.
You can prevent this - up to a point. Your end-of-life plan needs to deal in detail with the following: | The disposal of your money and your belongings plus final instructions and directions to those who will have to settle your affairs when you're dead. This is often called putting your affairs in order. | How you are looked after in your last days.
| Who will speak and act for you when you can no longer do so for yourself.
| Where you die. | The way you die. | Whether or not your organs are recycled.
| How your body will be cared for or to whom it will be donated. | How your body will be disposed of (burial or cremation). | Who you would like to be told that you are dead.
| Your funeral ceremony.
A plan like this spans several separate professional domains, each of which is colonised by its own specialists - solicitors, will writers, financial advisers, medics, undertakers, celebrants and caterers - all of whom mind their own business. The only person who can join them all up is you.
death seems to be the hardest word In communities where cultural or religious traditions are strong, people don't worry about their funeral. They know that when the time comes those closest to them will know what to do - custom and duty will see to it that things are done properly.
This eliminates choice, but it also eliminates faffing.
In communities where traditions have been left behind, dying people have no such assurance.
When death happens, unless they have been told, those closest to them won't necessarily have a clue what to do.
If those closest to you do not know how you want to be cared for you as you lie dying and, afterwards, how you would like your body to be cared for and disposed of, you will need to tell them.
Talking about death is reckoned morbid; worse, it's likely to bring it on.
One of the reasons why people don't talk about death is that no one will listen.
We need to talk However reluctant they are, you will need to try to talk to those closest to you about how you would like to make your exit because, if you want them to be your advocates, you'll need their active involvement.
Tell them that if they truly love you they will listen. Tell them that, when you can no longer speak for yourself, you will urgently need them to be there to speak and act for you.
In the face of any initial reluctance you need to be persuasive because you need their agreement.
You need to negotiate face to face in order to reach an understanding. You need to listen and, perhaps, give ground.
You should resist temptation to issue instructions or resort to emotional blackmail.
Agreements extorted under duress may not be honoured - and you will be in no position to protest.
Your goal is to engage willing collaboration.
When the time comes, those closest to you will be informed, prepared and empowered. They will be able to be useful, and they'll like that.
If you can't find anyone who will listen, you have no alternative but to write down what you want and hope that someone will act on it.
You will be able to transmit your care wishes through a living will and these will be respected.
Logging off You'll need to leave instructions about your online accounts so that they can be terminated. What are they? What are the passwords? This is the sort of information you don't want to write down and store somewhere at home where a careful burglar may find it. Better by far to store it all yes, online.
Getting it together It makes good sense to keep all your end-of-life paperwork together.
One way of doing this is to keep it in a special box - one you can point to and say, "It's all in there!" A particularly good sort of box is a memory box. After your death it can be recycled and used by those left behind for its original purpose: to store photos and mementos and knick-knacks which remind them of you. You can use an old shoe box. Or you can go upmarket. Google 'memory box'. There's lots of choice.
Do it online Alternatively, you can create and store your final instructions and wishes online. There are a number of sites that offer this and, because this is a new thing, you'll need to reassure yourself that the site isn't going to go bust and sink with all your stuff on board.
Leave a record The RECORDMENOW charity offers free downloadable software that enables you, using the little camera in your computer screen, to record onto a CD your thoughts about your life, and other things besides, for your children, partner, family. The creators especially had children in mind, because children can go through life with all sorts of unresolved questions about a dead parent - but it works for everyone.