5 Organizations Helping People With End-Of-Life Planning & Care

Preparing for death, or for the loss of a loved one, can be both logistically complex and emotionally overwhelming. But having a plan in place ahead of time and an experienced team to help can make the process much smoother, and allow everyone involved to have more time saying goodbye, instead of worrying about treatments and last wishes during the final hours. The organizations listed here provide advice, care, and services for both terminally ill people and their families and loved ones. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Groups That Offer End-Of-Life Services

Name Headquarters Location
Midland Care Connection Topeka, KS
Willow Vancouver, BC
Hospice of Holland Holland, MI
Prepare for Your Care San Francisco, CA
TRU Community Care Lafayette, CO

What Is End-Of-Life Care?

According to the National Institute on Aging, this term refers to an essential part of medical care that helps or soothes a person who is dying. The goals are to prevent or relieve suffering as much as possible and to improve quality of life while respecting the dying person's wishes. A peaceful death might mean different things to different people, but avoiding suffering, having end-of-life wishes followed, and being treated with respect while dying are common hopes. Generally speaking, people who are dying need care in four areas - physical comfort, mental and emotional needs, spiritual issues, and practical tasks.

The Five Stages Of Grief

One way to describe grief is in five stages. These reactions might not occur in a specific order, and can occur together. Not everyone experiences all of these emotions:

  1. Denial, disbelief, numbness
  2. Anger, blaming others
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depressed mood, sadness, and crying
  5. Acceptance, coming to terms

Making End-Of-Life Care Matter

The Difference Between Hospice & Palliative Care

Palliative care is medical care directed toward symptoms of an illness. This care can be done alongside curative treatment for patients who are hopeful that they can recover. It can be provided in hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient palliative care clinics and certain other specialized clinics, or at home. Like palliative care, hospice provides comprehensive comfort care as well as support for the family, but, in hospice, attempts to cure the person's illness are stopped. This is for patients who have terminal illnesses, have only a short time left to live (often less than six months), and no longer wish to undergo treatments that may be lessening their quality of life. Hospice can also be provided either at a care facility or at home. It is important to remember that stopping treatment aimed at curing an illness does not mean discontinuing all treatment. A good example is an older person with cancer. If the doctor determines that the cancer is not responding to chemotherapy and the patient chooses to enter into hospice care, then the chemotherapy will stop. Other medical care may continue as long as it is helpful. For example, if the person has high blood pressure, they will still get medicine for that.

When To Contact A Medical Professional About Grief

Most people are able to come to terms with grief with the help of their friends, family, and support groups. And being open and honest about death and loss can be a therapeutic experience for many. But if you're experiencing more severe symptoms of grief, like these, you should reach out to your healthcare provider for help:

  • You can't deal with grief
  • You are using excessive amounts of drugs or alcohol
  • You become very depressed
  • You have long-term depression that interferes with your daily life
  • You have suicidal thoughts

How To Talk to Kids About Death

In Depth

The approach of death can involve a great deal of pain and fear, especially for those uncertain about available options for medical treatment or the preservation of their legacy. Fortunately, there are many organizations that help with planning for this final transition, or extend supportive care to those with terminal illnesses. In no particular order, here are five sources for assistance with end-of-life preparation and care.

Opening our list at #1 is Midland Care Connection, a not-for-profit organization supporting seniors in living with dignity during their final years. Its Thrive at Home program provides assistance with everyday tasks, overseen by a registered nurse, and the group collaborates with Meals on Wheels for nutritious food delivery. Its PACE program offers elders an alternative to nursing facilities, with a dedicated care team providing in-home services.

Along with home assistance programs, Midland Care operates a senior living facility, and offers options for those dealing with serious illness or preparing for the end of life. The organization provides palliative care and hospice services, with a comfort-focused inpatient facility for those unable to spend their final days at home. It also offers grief counseling services for people of all ages, and shares bereavement resources online.

It also offers grief counseling services for people of all ages, and shares bereavement resources online.

Entry #2 is Willow, which provides tools for end-of-life-planning, focused on helping people find peace and renewed purpose while preparing for death. The company offers a workbook assisting users in reflecting on their values, priorities, and eventual legacy, with an accompanying online program to complement the book's exercises. Other resources include guides on writing Heart Wills and love letters to those left behind.

Willow shares numerous free materials, such as a template for specifying one's wishes regarding remembrance ceremonies and handling of remains, or its Reality of Our Mortality Planning Checklist. The organization offers in-person Learning Circles and online workshops, where participants can connect with others who are wrestling with similar challenges. Willow's blog also offers reflections on death, grief, and the value of living mindfully.

Next up at #3 is Hospice of Holland, an organization in southwestern Michigan offering palliative and assistive services to those approaching life's end. This group's hospice facilities provide both professional medical care focused on maximizing quality of life, and support for spiritual and psychological wellness, with an interdisciplinary team overseeing each patient's care.

This group's hospice facilities provide both professional medical care focused on maximizing quality of life, and support for spiritual and psychological wellness, with an interdisciplinary team overseeing each patient's care.

Hospice of Holland operates specialized programs for advanced dementia, congestive heart failure, and patients whose conditions are limiting but not necessarily terminal. The organization extends bereavement assistance to the loved ones of patients, including community support groups, and can aid with advance care planning and financial concerns. Hospice of Holland also provides classes and seminars, both for professional caregivers and for anyone interested in end-of-life issues.

#4 in our overview is Prepare for Your Care, an organization providing resources to assist individuals and families with creating advance healthcare directives. The core of the program is a video-assisted planning tool, which takes users through important steps such as settling care priorities and preparing questions for physicians.

Prepare for Your Care offers numerous free resources, such as a movie outlining the process of making advance decisions about end-of-life treatment, as well as a toolkit and pamphlet for those using the PREPARE framework with loved ones or community groups. The organization also conducts research on the program's efficacy, and shares news about medical planning issues.

The organization also conducts research on the program's efficacy, and shares news about medical planning issues.

We'll close with #5, TRU Community Care, an organization based in northern Colorado that offers support for all stages of serious illness and loss. It provides palliative services for patients with dementia or other advanced conditions, and its TRU PACE program helps seniors maintain independence, with assistance from a team of trained care providers.

TRU operates a hospice care program, with in-home services and an inpatient center, offering quality-of-life support for individuals with terminal illness. The organization also provides extensive grief services, including hiking support groups, community remembrance ceremonies, and a virtual memorial commemorating former patients. TRU encourages end-of-life planning through the Conversation Project in Boulder County, and shares articles offering perspectives on caregivers, aging, and dying.