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Making Future Plans with Advanced Cancer

Careful planning may reduce burdens families face when someone has advanced cancer.

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Thinking about the future can feel stressful, but there comes a time when it’s helpful to make certain decisions. Careful planning reduces the financial, legal, and emotional burdens your family will face after you're gone. For many people, it's hard bringing up these subjects. But talking about them now can avoid problems later.

Complete Advance Directives

If you have not done so already, it's important to fill out advance directives. These are legal papers that tell your loved ones and doctors what to do for you if you can't tell them yourself. Making these decisions now keeps you in control of how you want to be treated, and who you choose to be in charge of your care. By filling out advance directives, you're making your wishes known for all to follow. Doing so can also give your loved ones peace of mind. For more details, see Advance Directives.

Update Insurance Issues

Contact your health insurance company if you decide to try a new treatment or go into hospice. Most insurance plans cover hospice. They may also cover brief home visits from a nurse or a home health aide several times a week. But it's wise to ask in advance. This may prevent payment problems later. For more details about insurance, see Managing Costs and Medical Information.

Put Your Affairs in Order

You can help your family by organizing records, insurance policies, documents, and instructions. You may want to call a lawyer or financial planner to make sure you have taken all the right steps in doing these things. Your bank can answer questions about how to change accounts and credit cards. Other steps to take may be:

  • Make a list of where your family can find important papers.
  • Keep your papers in a fireproof box or with a lawyer.
  • If your papers are in a safety deposit box, make sure that a family member or friend has access to the box.
  • Although original documents are needed for legal purposes, give family members photocopies.

There are many different types of papers your family will need. You may not need all of the items on this list, but here is a guide. Write down contact information and what needs to be done for the following:

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  • Banks, savings, and loans
  • Safety deposit box information
  • Life insurance company
  • Health insurance company
  • Homeowners’ or renters’ insurance company
  • Attorneys
  • Accountant
  • Pension or retirement plans
  • Investment companies
  • Credit card companies
  • Employer

Making Funeral Arrangements

If it feels right to you, you may want to help your family plan a funeral or memorial service that has meaning to you. Although doing so may seem hard, planning this ahead of time will help your loved ones after your death. It will ease the burden of their having to make these choices themselves during a time of strong emotions and stress. Some people plan services that are celebrations, while others prefer something more subdued. Talk with your family about the type of service you would like.