Planning ahead: choices and decisions at the end of life

1. Why plan ahead?
2. How and where you want to be cared for
3. Putting your affairs in order
4. Bereavement support for your family
5. Questions to help you plan ahead

1. Why plan ahead?

If you have secondary breast cancer, planning how you want to be cared for in future can:

  • help you get the care you want
  • make sure loved ones and healthcare professionals know your preferences
  • help you feel more settled, safe and in control

Making choices or decisions about the end of life is not easy. And there’s no right or wrong time to think about these things.


Our list of questions to think about might help you start planning ahead.

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2. How and where you want to be cared for

Although it can be painful to look ahead, it can be helpful to think about where and how you want to be cared for at the end of life.

For example, you might want to be cared for:

  • at home
  • in a hospice
  • in a nursing home
  • in hospital

Who to talk to about your care

You can talk to your family, GP, or palliative or home care team about how and where you’d like to be cared for, as well as any cultural or religious considerations that would be important to you towards the end of your life.  

Remember, you can change your mind about any of your decisions at any time.

Advance statements and decisions

An advance statement is a written general statement about your views and wishes. It’s not legally binding, but your doctors and nurses should take it into account when caring for you.

An advance decision states that you want to refuse certain treatment. In England and Wales, an advance decision is legally binding. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, it isn’t legally binding but must be taken into account by the medical team.

Find out more:

Lasting power of attorney (LPA)

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document valid in England and Wales.

An LPA is when you legally appoint someone you trust to make decisions about your property and financial affairs, and/or your health and welfare at a time in the future when you can no longer do so.

The process is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Find out more:

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3. Putting your affairs in order

Writing a will

Making a will is a thoughtful and effective way of taking care of the people you love, as it can spare them the difficult decisions and financial problems that can happen if you don’t make your wishes clear.

When writing a will or amending an existing one, it’s usually best to use a solicitor.

Find out more:

Letters or memory boxes for children

Some people write letters to their children, particularly if they’re very young, or put together memory boxes containing messages or things that have a special meaning. These can be very precious to a child whose parent has died.

Find out more:

Planning a funeral

Some people choose to plan their own funeral. This may be a difficult thing to do, but it can be part of how someone comes to terms with the fact that they’re approaching the end of life. It can also be reassuring to know that things have been organised for your loved ones and that they know what your wishes are.

Find out more:

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4. Bereavement support for your family

Palliative care teams can often provide bereavement support to families of people who have been in their care, including children and young people.

GPs can also refer people for bereavement counselling, even if someone died a long time ago.

Other national and local services are able to offer support, advice and information.

Find out more:

Financial support

Bereavement Support Payment provides accessible financial help for spouses and civil partners in the difficult period after a family death.

Bereavement Support Payment replaces Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parent’s Allowance, and is available to people of any age up to state pension age. It is not taxed.

Find out more:

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5. Questions to help you plan ahead

The following questions may help you start to think about planning ahead.

  • What information do you need about your illness and what may happen to you?
  • Where would you prefer to be cared for towards the end of your life (for example at home, in a hospice, hospital or nursing home)?
  • Do you want to write an advance decision?
  • Do you wish to arrange lasting power of attorney?
  • Have you made or updated your will?
  • Are there any spiritual or religious practices that you wish to be carried out before or at the time of your death, or after you have died? Who do you need to ask to make sure this happens?
  • What funeral arrangements would you like to be made?
  • Who do you want to make the arrangements? Do you wish to plan anything yourself or with your loved ones?
  • Do you want to be cremated or buried?
  • Do those looking after your affairs know where to find all the necessary documents?
  • Is there anything that you want done for the people that you love?
  • Do you wish to leave letters/messages/memory boxes or recordings for loved ones?

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Last reviewed: May 2018
Next planned review begins 2020

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