Covid deaths are surging. We see the numbers increasing on the news.  Yet the realities of these numbers remain abstract until one has to deal with the loss of life of a loved one or severe illness themselves.  The details surrounding death are not familiar to most people outside the health profession.  We don’t have classes to prepare us for the many issues that arise.  So, we are ill prepared for the decisions and paperwork that need attending.

We are bombarded with warnings about the highly contagious Corona virus and potential risks to our health.  The response to this very threatening message is often denial rather than development of an action plan. This is normal, but not helpful.

Thoughts of our own demise are frankly unpleasant and hard to comprehend.  In polite society, details surrounding death are generally considered morbid and avoided.  This leaves many unanswered questions and an unnecessary burden on our families who are left without needed information and documents.

So, if you are still reading, please know that this article is to provide some specific tools to get on with the task of planning your own “Last Chapter.”

No matter your age, and especially if you have children, I encourage you to face the details of preparing for an unforeseen illness, accident and eventually death.

If we are sensible, we will make time to develop our own roadmap before a crisis renders us unable to literally have a voice. Set aside a time to learn what is needed, complete the forms and be done with it!

Having time to digest information and construct a personalized plan makes us calmer and feel more in control. (I realize it is also a painful process!) To make it easier, I’ve listed resources I discovered while developing a workshop entitled, “The Final Chapter,” to help you get on with the task.

Most documents can be completed on your computer or provide forms to complete.  I am glad to report that I completed necessary forms, have documents in a notebook and have shared the information with my sons.   It does take a good bit of time, so I suggest starting with “Begin the Conversation: Healthcare Planning” listed below.  This resource will help you know some issues to consider and how to initiate the conversation with your loved ones.

Some examples:

  • Who do I want to make decisions for me if I can’t make them on my own?
  • How much medical intervention do I want?
  • What medical options are there?
  • How do I arrange for a funeral or cremation?
  • How much does this cost?
  • What exactly are advance directives?
  • Is my will up to date?
  • Where are codes for my bank and computer?
  • Who needs to have all this information?
  • Does anyone know how to access these documents?
  • If caring for a terminally ill loved one, consider reading Being Mortal by Dr. Atul Gwande. It is an excellent review of his experience with his father’s illness and the progression from a personal and professional physician’s standpoint.

Whether young or old, take the time to do some research.  Many of us are home bound due to virus restrictions, so you just might have the time!

Websites and Resources

Begin the Conversation: Healthcare Planning –

The Last Visit: Resource for Discussing, Learning, and Planning –

**National Caregiver’s Library:  Excellent resource for caregivers with many lists and covers many topics associated with care giving, downsizing,, documents etc.

Patient Dignity Inventory –

Personal Excellence Blog: “Why Create a Bucket List?”

POLST: Physician Orders for Life-sustaining Treatment Program –

What Matters Now Website Builder –


Sharon Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP, is a commissioner on the Georgia Commission on Women.