“If you become terminally ill, do you want doctors to use heroic measures, like life support, to keep you alive no matter what? Or do you want to avoid the intensive care unit and simply go home?”
What would happen if you became extremely sick or were badly injured and unable to express what you wanted to happen? Think about this from the perspective of your spouse or your adult children. Would they know what you would want? Do they have any legal documents that can they rely on to ensure that your wishes are followed?
Granted, this is not a fun topic. However, this is a very important conversation to have with your loved ones, and it is also part of your estate plan. As reported in this article from the Cleveland Clinic, “How to Get Your Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney in Order,” the time to have this conversation is now and not when you are in the middle of a health crisis.
Three tasks you need to tackle:
Have your estate planning attorney help you complete advance directives. Remember that each state has its own laws, so work with a local attorney who can create the correct documents. You’ll want a Health Care Power of Attorney to name an agent, who will make medical decisions when you can’t speak for yourself. If you recover enough to able to become competent, then their responsibility is completed. Without a Health Care Power of Attorney, the state’s laws will determine who makes your medical decisions.
You also need to have a living will. This will spell out the kind of care you want, if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. The focus of this document is keeping you comfortable, versus using artificial means to keep you alive. This is also the document to use to express your wishes regarding organ donation.
Talk with your family and loved ones. Critical care doctors often report that when they ask patient’s family members what the patient’s wishes are, few families know. What if you woke up from a car accident, and discovered that you were breathing through a ventilator and could neither speak or move? These are uncomfortable conversations, but in their absence, patients and families are left in worse situations.
You should also talk with your doctors and healthcare providers about your wishes. It is important for them to have a copy of your advance directives to keep in your medical records. They’ll be scanned and placed in your file. Let them know about your wishes, your values and about end-of-life care. Your goals may change, so you may need to have more than one conversation. You may want to speak with your family members first, then document your wishes with your estate planning attorney.
The order in which you do this is less important than that it gets done.
Reference: Cleveland Clinic (Oct. 11, 2018) “How to Get Your Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney in Order”
Suggested Key Terms: Dying, End-Of-Life Care, Health Care Power Of Attorney, Living Will, End-of-Life Care