End of life: put your affairs in order

Key points

  • Everyone who is getting older needs to think about what they would want to happen if they were seriously unwell or after their death.
  • This includes preferences and decisions about your healthcare and financial affairs.

With modern HIV treatment, people with HIV can live a long and healthy life. In the UK, very few people have their lives cut short by HIV anymore.

Nonetheless, everyone who is getting older needs to think about what they would want to happen if they were seriously unwell or after their death.

It’s easier to make decisions about these things while you are in good health than to leave it until the situation is already difficult. If you change your wishes later, you’ll still be able to update your plans.

It’s important to prepare for the possibility that one day, you might be too ill to make decisions about your own healthcare and your practical affairs. You can make plans for who you’d like to be involved and how you would like to be cared for in these circumstances.

You can tell your doctors who you consider to be your ‘next of kin’ – a person close to you, who you’d like to be consulted about your healthcare in an emergency. This may be important if your next of kin is your partner or a close friend, rather than a member of your family.

It’s worth talking to those you are close to about what’s important to you in relation to your healthcare. For example, you could tell them where you would like to be cared for towards the end of your life (for example, at home, in a hospice, or in a hospital). It’s also a good idea to write down your decisions and preferences so that everything is clear (and tell people where to find that document).

In the UK, you can also set up a power of attorney, which is a legal arrangement that allows someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf. You can create separate power of attorneys for healthcare decisions and for financial decisions.

Also, if you’re in the UK, you may want to write an ‘advance decision’ (a living will) which describes your wishes about any treatment you don’t want to have, in case you’re too ill to speak for yourself.

(Procedures are likely to be a little different in other countries.)

Everyone should have a will, whatever their age. You can be sure that the things you own go to the people you choose. Having your wishes clearly set out will help avoid problems and arguments after your death.

It’ll also be helpful for those left behind if you organise important documents such as bank records, insurance policies and property deeds, and tell people where to find them.

You might also want to tell others about your wishes for a funeral, cremation or burial. Some people engage a funeral director and pay the expenses in advance.

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