“Survival” Kit

Many national and healthcare organizations urge families and communities to be prepared for emergencies and natural disasters. 

You know from reading this blog that I believe passionately in the importance of having conversations and sharing information so that each person can be prepared as fully as possible for the end of life.  Below, I’ve taken a few commonly recommended “supplies” from these “survival kit” lists and added a column showing an equivalent preparation that can ready us for death and surviving bereavement.

Survival Kit
End of Life Survival Kit
Water / Food (non-perishable, easy to prepare)
Nourishment – As our physical bodies prepare for death, we no longer need water and food in the “normal” sense.  Instead, we focus on fulfilling other senses:
  • needing to hear our loved ones’ voices
  • wanting to feel the touch of a hand or hug
  • wanting to see loved ones a final time
  • enjoying the smell of favorite flowers or foods (even though we can no longer eat)
Flashlight, Radio, Batteries
Guide – It can be helpful to have someone by our side who can lead us through the darkness.  For some that might be a pastor/priest. For others, it may be a friend reading from a favorite book or someone sitting quietly, holding our hand.
Copies of personal documents (medication list deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
Identity – Death does not claim our identity.  We leave people behind who love us, who will remember and will miss us.  Making legacy documents (videos, letters, photobooks, etc.) can ease the grief of those we leave behind.
Baby supplies; Games and activities for the children
Consider the family – When a family member is dying, there may be multiple generations in the home.  It can be beneficial to engage all ages appropriately for being around or providing care of the dying loved one.

The final section of many survival kits suggest keeping supplies handy that are specific to disasters you could face in your community.  People living along ocean coasts will likely have different supply needs than someone living in “Tornado Alley” or near a nuclear power plant.  And so go the differences in the needs of the dying and those who love them.  Each individual will have a different experience with death not only physically (biologically) but also psychologically, spiritually and socially.  Some of us will die peacefully in our sleep in our own bed in our own home surrounded by loved ones (relatively few, unfortunately).  Others of us will die tethered to tubes and wires in intensive care units either by our choosing (“do everything”) or by accident/trauma combined with lack of plans/documentation.  Still others of us will die in skilled care facilities following slow-progressing serious illnesses; or in hospitals following an acute attack or disease.

In most instances, when and how we die is not necessarily under our control.  However, talking about and being prepared for our inevitable death IS under our control.  We can choose to ignore it and let our loved ones figure out what we would want them to do or we can address our guaranteed mortality and tell them what we want (or don’t want).  The more we can plan and prepare them for our deaths, the better able they will be to advocate for our choices and save themselves feelings of burden making the ‘right’ decision or the guilt of not being sure of what to do.

Caring Choices is ready to help you talk about and prepare your family’s “End of Life Survival Kit”.  Doing so can alleviate decision-making burden and prevent feelings of guilt. Are you ready to get prepared?

© 2014 Caring Choices