A person with AIDS, like every other adult, should have a will.
This can be a difficult subject to discuss, but a will may need to be written before there is any question of the mental competence of the person with AIDS. You may want to be sure the person you are caring for has a will and that you know where it is.
Living wills, which specify what medical care the person with AIDS wants or does not want, also have to be written before their mental competence could be questioned. You, as the caregiver, may be the person asked to see that the doctors follow the wishes of the person with AIDS. This can be a very hard experience to deal with, but is another way of showing respect for a dying person. You may want to be sure the person you are caring for knows that they can control their medical care through living wills.
Often, people who know that they will die soon choose to make their own funeral or memorial arrangements. This helps make sure that the funeral will be done the way they want it done. It also makes things easier for those left behind. They no longer have to guess what their friend or loved one would have wanted. You may be asked to help the person with AIDS plan the funeral, make arrangements with the funeral home, and select a cemetery plot or mausoleum. You may be able to help the person with AIDS decide how they wish to be buried or if they want to be cremated.
After the death, there will still be things to do. Programs that have been providing help, such as Supplemental Security Income, will have to be officially informed of the death. Some money already sent or received may have to be returned. The will may name you, a relative, or another person as the one to handle these tasks.
Dying at Home
Whether or not to die at home is a big decision, but it may not have to be made right away. As the health of the person with AIDS changes, you and they may change your minds several times. However, it is something you should talk about with the person with AIDS ahead of time. Plans should be made; legal papers may need to be signed. What the dying person wants and needs, the needs and abilities of the caregivers and other loved ones, the advice of the doctors and other medical professionals, the advice of clergy or other spiritual leaders, may all need to be considered in deciding what is best. Consideration must be given to everyone living in the home. Small children and others may not be ready to cope with death in their home. Others in the home may prefer to face the final moments of the person with AIDS in familiar surroundings. Just be sure the person with AIDS knows that they will not die alone, that the people they love will try to be with them, wherever they choose to die. You also should get help to deal with your own grief after the death.
Help for You
Taking care of someone who is very sick is hard. It wears you down physically and emotionally and creates stress. You can get very angry watching a person you love get sicker and sicker no matter how hard you work or how much you care. You have to do something with this anger. Many people can talk out their anger with other people who have the same problems or with counselors, ministers, rabbis, friends, family, or health workers. Many AIDS service organizations can help you find people to talk to.
You should not try to be the only person taking care of someone with AIDS. You need some time for yourself. The sicker the person you are taking care of becomes, the more important this is. If you try to do everything yourself, you will wear yourself out and not be able to go on. You are not alone. Other people have done this before. Learn from them. Call the places listed in the next section for help.