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Practical Tips for When Your Loved One is Terminally Ill

Practical Tips for When Your Loved One is Terminally Ill

When someone you love is very ill or dealing with a terminal illness it can be exhausting emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. There is so much to deal with, and it looms larger than you. Every. Single. Day. Friends at a law firm gave us one of the most helpful and thoughtful gifts when my mother was in her final months of battling cancer. It is a gift that I would have never thought to put together, but it “saved the day” on many occasions when I was dealing with the business that came with caring for my mom.

First, let me state that I am not an attorney. These are documents that we found helpful in the care plan for my mother who was living with terminal cancer provided by a law firm of amazing friends of ours. My mother and I went into the law office of our friends, and they discussed the documents with us, my mother signed them, and they notarized the documents for us. All the documents were compiled into a 1-inch white Avery hard cover 3-ring notebook.

The following legal documents will help you care for your loved one:

1. General DURABLE Power of Attorney (POA).
My mother’s was about 22 pages long. Make sure it is a Durable POA, because that type does not end when a person becomes mentally incapacitated. Consult your attorney as to what your loved one will need in theirs, and understand what you are signing and will have rights to execute (and in what situations) for your loved one. Also, my mother appointed both me and my husband to be able to make decisions for her. Wording is very important. This document stated specifically that if one of us was unable or unwilling to serve, the other may serve alone. In an emergency event, we would not both need to be present to make a life saving decision.

2. Health Care Power of Attorney.
This allows you to make medical decisions, obtain medical records, and tend to health care issues.

3. HIPPAA Authorization.
I used this so many times. This was so helpful because my mother did not feel like dealing with the constant business issues at hand while in treatment. This allows you to procure or handle legally protected health information on behalf of your loved one. This is especially helpful.

4. Living Will/Medical Advance Directive.
This backs up a Healthcare POA. A Living Will is a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as, other decisions such as pain management or organ donation. Make sure your loved  one specifies in this document their end of life care wishes, and also include your loved one’s instructions on DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) & DNI (Do Not Intubate) wishes. These documents need to be in place as soon as possible. They are difficult yet necessary conversations to have. In addition, we found that each hospital and hospice also required their own Advance Directive on file, but the one I had from the law office served in place of it if necessary.

I have since learned that a Financial POA might be another helpful and necessary document for someone to have in hand. I never needed one, but my name was on all my mother’s financial accounts. Also, it’s a really good idea to make sure you name people who work well together if you name different people as agents on different POA’s.

I put this binder in a bag I could easily carry everywhere we went. Alongside it, I had my mother’s Social Security Card, her military ID, driver’s license, and all insurance cards. I used them all. I also had all her X-Rays on disc, MRI’s on disc, scans on discs, oncology reports, and list of medications. In the last days, I added in her funeral plan information, Last Will & Testament, and an Obituary I had written in advance. I also carried an extra phone charger for me. Finally, I usually had about $50 in cash and change in a little money bag to have on hand.

I send you wishes of peace if you are living in this situation right now. You are doing an awesome thing honoring and loving your loved one in this way. Make sure you take time and moments for yourself too.

You’ll also like When Life Gives You a New Normal15 Ways to Care for Yourself When You Have a Child with Special NeedsThe Empowerment of a Pink Binder, and Anatomy of a Strong Woman


Linda is a beauty school drop out (sing along if you’re a Grease junkie) raised as an army brat, loves home cooked meals, and telling stories of how she survived a crazy tornado.

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