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Planning for the End of Life - Steps to plan

Steps to plan

Step 1. Decide what end-of-life care you want

Choose what level of advance care planning you’d like to do. Learn as much as you can about the treatments available to you at end-of-life. This will help you make informed decisions. To get started, see our page on preparing an advance care plan.

If you’ve decided to decline CPR or other emergency medical procedures, complete the form. It’s available online or from a health care professional’s office. It must be signed by a consenting adult (either the person approaching the end of life or their substitute decision-maker), plus their doctor or nurse practitioner. 

Put the signed no CPR form on the fridge at home so it can be easily seen. When away from home, carry the form with you. You can also get a free MedicAlert® bracelet with “No CPR” engraved on it. To obtain a free bracelet, call 1-800-668-1507 or visit the MedicAlert® website.

Step 2. Discuss your values and wishes for care with loved ones

Communicate your wishes for care, and your values, with the key people in your life. Have these conversations with:

  • your family and those who are close to you,
  • anyone who might be asked to make an end-of-life decision for you (if you’re not able), and
  • your health care providers.

It’s not always easy to talk about these kinds of things, but it’s important. It’ll help ensure you receive the care you want.

Step 3. Write a will

Think about who you’d like to have your property when you’re gone. The best way to ensure your wishes are followed is to prepare a will. You can prepare a simple will yourself, or get help from a lawyer or notary public. 

Step 4. Decide on organ and tissue donation

Decide whether to register as a donor with the BC Organ Donor Registry administered by BC Transplant. (You can also register a “No” on the site. This will prevent your family from unwittingly approving an organ donation you didn’t want.)

You don’t have to be perfectly healthy to donate an organ — it’s the health of the organ that matters. There’s no age limit to register. Talk with your doctor or contact BC Transplant if you have questions. 

Under the law, a donor’s consent to organ donation is binding. But if someone believes the donor changed their mind, the consent can’t be acted on — unless the donor expressed consent in their will. BC Transplant’s practice is to “ask the family if they’re aware of any change in their loved one's decision, and will honour their wishes.”

If you feel strongly about donating (or not donating) your organs, write your wishes in your will. Then tell your family and those close to you that you have done so and why. This is an important step, because it may be difficult to produce a will in the heat of the moment. It will help prevent delays and misunderstandings.

Step 5. Make arrangements with a funeral home

You can make a funeral plan with most British Columbia Funeral Association members. Pre-arranging a funeral can help reduce financial and emotional stress after your death. For information on funeral homes in your area, contact the BC Funeral Association.

Communicate your preferences with family and those close to you

Be aware that your own wishes for the kind of funeral or memorial service you want won’t be binding on whoever’s arranging it. Even if you wrote those wishes into your will.

But if you write your preference for burial or cremation in your will, that preference is binding. (Except if following it would be unreasonable, impracticable, or cause hardship.) The same applies if you set out your preference for burial or cremation in a contract for cemetery or funeral services. If you say what you want in another way, such as through a letter or simply telling a loved one, that’s not legally binding.

The bottom line is: if your loved ones know your wishes, they’re more likely to follow them. For example, a green (eco-friendly) burial might be important to you. Or perhaps you’d like a favourite song played at your memorial. 

Step 6. Complete the notice of expected home death form

If you’re planning an expected death at home, have your doctor fill out the notification of expected death in the home form. It authorizes the funeral home to remove the body from the home without pronouncement of death by a health care professional. The form should be sent to the funeral home before the death.

Step 7. Prepare a written plan

If you’re approaching the end of life, consider writing a short plan. This helps family, friends, and others respect your wishes and know what to do at the time of death.

The written plan should include:

  • Medical contacts. How the family doctor or nurse practitioner can be reached, and who to contact if they are unavailable.
  • Pronouncing death. Who will pronounce death, if pronouncement is planned.
  • Funeral home. Which funeral home will be called to transport the body.
  • Legacy work. You may want to prepare letters, notes, or special gifts to be given to loved ones after you’ve passed away.