In the event that your health fails, you are hospitalized, or you’re too sick to speak for yourself, your family will have to step in and make medical decisions for you. This can be a burden on your loved ones, who will have to try to make major decisions about your health and care – without truly knowing what your wishes would be. In some circumstances, family members can take extremely different positions about care decisions. Many disputes arise because they can’t agree on the right course of action. The outcome of this situation is no one is happy, and your wishes may not be honored. To make things easier on everyone, including yourself, it’s important to create advance directives, like a living will or a medical power of attorney. This way, you can still be in charge of your healthcare, even when you can’t speak for yourself.
4 Factors to Consider for End-of-Life Planning
Planning for the end of your life can seem overwhelming. Make it easier on yourself and start by considering these key factors. These will lead you in the right direction, so you cover your bases.
1. Your Emotional and Spiritual Needs
If you’re not sure what future decisions to make concerning your health, look at them in light of your emotional and spiritual needs. For example, you may not want a certain treatment based on moral, religious, or personal reasons. Some people want their life to end naturally, without support from life-sustaining treatments. These will keep your body alive and your systems working, even if your life quality is drastically reduced. Depending on the situation, you can choose not to have these treatments, unless they will improve your function or restore you to a better condition.
2. Who Will Make Health Decisions on Your Behalf?
If you ever become incapacitated, you can choose a person who will make health decisions on your behalf. This is relevant for end-of-life planning as well as other situations, such as if you have an accident or other medical emergency. The person who makes these decisions for you not only should be someone you trust, but also level-headed, calm and logical in emergencies, strong enough to stand up and be your advocate, and willing to put forward your wishes even if they disagree with them. Most of all, this person should be willing to do the job, and available when it’s time for them to perform their duty.
3. Medical Power of Attorney vs. a Living Will
For your advance directives, you will formally name the person who will act as your agent – this person will have medical power of attorney. You will also create a living will, which explains the types of treatments you do or do not want under various circumstances. For instance, you might not want to be resuscitated if your heart stops beating, or you might not want to be put on a ventilator if you can’t breathe on your own. Conversely, you might want your doctors to do everything in their power to keep you alive. Whatever your wishes, you will make them known in your living will, which will go into effect as soon as a doctor declares you unable to make your own health decisions.
4. Making Sure Your Advance Directives Are Legal
You don’t need a lawyer to prepare an advance directive, but there are steps you should take to make sure it’s legal. Otherwise, doctors and your family won’t have to abide by its terms. To properly prepare yours, make sure you source your forms (including a living will and medical power of attorney forms) from an official location in your state, such as your local hospice, public health departments, or local hospitals. Read the forms thoroughly and complete any state requirements. Sometimes, this must include getting a witness to sign your forms, as well as having them notarized.
Advance Directives Seem Weighty, but They Ultimately Provide Peace of Mind
Whether you know you’re nearing the end of your life, are in hospice care, or just want to cover your bases, a living will and power of attorney can give you peace of mind. These documents will help relieve your family of an unnecessary burden, and will make sure your wishes are followed even after you can’t make them known through your own means. You may not want to face this task right now, but you’ll ultimately be making things easier for everyone in the end, which is a comforting thought.