By: Linda May Grobman, MSW, ACSW, LSW
It’s not an event that anyone “likes” to plan for. However, in our roles as social workers, we know that it can be extremely beneficial to make one’s wishes known toward the end of life. Doing some advance planning is a useful activity (for ourselves or our clients), especially when it comes to living wills, durable power of attorney for healthcare, and funerals.
People use technology to get help for planning a wedding, a bar mitzvah celebration, or a birthday party. But where can one turn to get online help with end-of-life planning?
Put It In Writing
This American Hospital Association-sponsored Web site provides questions and answers about advance directives, including a downloadable brochure, a wallet card, a glossary of terms, and links to other helpful resources.
and Five Wishes® Online
Five Wishes® is a living will document that meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in 42 states. It can be attached to the state-required paperwork in the other states. The five wishes include:
- The person I want to make health care decisions for me when I am not able to make my own health care decisions.
- The kind of medical treatment I want or don’t want.
- How comfortable I want to be.
- How I want people to treat me.
- What I want my loved ones to know.
The Five Wishes booklet can be ordered online and takes the person step-by-step through each of these wishes with easy checkboxes, lists, and fill-in-the-blanks.
Through the online version of Five Wishes, a person can complete, save, print, and e-mail his or her Five Wishes document electronically.
AARP Caregiving Resource Center
This section of the AARP Web site provides informative articles, videos, and other resources. For example, the article, “Beginning the Conversation About the End of Life,” asks some important questions to ask a loved one. There are also online chats and support groups for caregivers.
Full Circle of Care—Preparing an End of Life Plan
This very comprehensive site offers links to a variety of practical tools, such as a checklist to use after a person dies (http://www.fullcirclecare.org/endoflife/ckl2.html), a list of pertinent contacts (http://www.fullcirclecare.org/endoflife/ckl1.html), a medical information worksheet (http://www.fullcirclecare.org/endoflife/wksheet.html), and other checklists and forms. Some of the information is specific to residents of North Carolina, but most can be used anywhere.
Talk Early Talk Often
This Web site provides guidance on talking to aging parents about a variety of issues, including advance directives and end-of-life planning. Areas to plan include their “stuff,” their property, their finances, their pets, people currently under their care (including special needs adult children), passing down family stories, health care, remembrance after they die, disposing of their remains, where to keep the plan, and who to tell about the plan.
This site was started in 2011 to help people research, plan, and arrange a wide variety of funeral related services. Co-founders Mike Belsito and Bryan Chaikin launched the site after Mike’s cousin died unexpectedly, and the family didn’t know where to turn to make the quick, but important, decisions that needed to be made.
Chelsea Gumuchio, LISW, is the liaison social worker for eFuneral. “As a former hospice social worker, I understand how difficult it can be to help undecided families make funeral arrangements,” she explains. “When I was asked by my [hospice] patients and their families for funeral home recommendations, I was only able to provide a list of area funeral homes. And if I had time, I might also make a few calls on their behalf to obtain pricing information. But most frequently, I was unable to provide my patients and their families with much useful information or guidance, unless [they] qualified for indigent services.”
She continues, “It always struck me that while my job was to offer care, comfort, and support to these individuals who were going through such a difficult time, I could not help them with one of the most significant and stressful decisions that they faced.”
Part of Chelsea’s role at eFuneral is to let healthcare professionals know about the services the site provides. One hospice social worker told her, “Tell whoever invented this that they are my savior. I had an intern collecting all of the funeral home information, as well as the pricing, but now eFuneral will save her hours.”
The site allows visitors to compare local funeral homes, get pricing information, and get advice. Chelsea writes articles for the site’s resource center on death and dying, caregiving, end-of-life care, and other related topics.
Linda May Grobman, MSW, ACSW, LSW, is the publisher/editor of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER.
This article appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.