Planning for a time when you are incapable of caring for yourself and for making major decisions about your health care when facing end-of-life situations is not easy. While many people profess that they do not want extreme measures to be taken if it means living with a greatly diminished quality of life, very few of us actually put those wishes in writing or advise our spouse or close relatives. Without a written instruction or direction, the default decision is to implement option treatments that may keep you alive under all circumstances.
A recent study showed that while 80% of those surveyed agreed that end-of-life planning should begin while you are healthy, less than 40% had actually named someone to make those decisions. Even fewer had discussed what to do in end-of-life situations with family members.
You can avoid this possibility and relieve your loved ones of the emotional burden and trauma that comes with making such decisions on your behalf, should you be incapacitated, by creating an advance medical directive. Over the course of your life, you make decisions regarding employment, where you want to live, how to raise your children, and how to spend your money. Making a decision about your health care under circumstances where you are suffering from dementia, or a critical illness, or injury is no less significant.
Your family, as well as your doctors, will want firm proof of your intentions. Have a family discussion now about what quality of life means to you and what to do if facing an emergency situation. By communicating your wishes clearly to your spouse or children ,and documenting your instructions, you can prevent emotional arguments as to what course of care to follow.
There are two main forms of advance directives:
Health Care Power of Attorney
With a Health Care Power of Attorney, you appoint an “agent” or trusted individual, who is at least 18 years of age, to make your health care decisions on your behalf. In this document, you can specify the type of care you want or do not want. If you wish, you can limit the discretion of your agent and give your healthcare provider a clear instruction on how to proceed. The Health Care Power of Attorney only takes effect when you are unable to articulate your own medical needs, such as having dementia or you are unconscious because of an illness or accident. You can change your choice of agent or instructions at any time or simply revoke it if you wish.
Many people have heard of a Living Will, which instructs your loved ones to either implement extreme measures to save your life, or not take extraordinary measures to keep you alive if no hope is left for your recovery. Massachussetts does not have a binding Living Will Statute so it your Health Care Power of Attorney is an instrument that should clearly advise your family about your intentions in the event you are either seriously ill or injured and the prospects for your recovery are not favorable, or you face a quality of life that is totally unsatisfactory to your personal wishes.
Get Started with End-of-Life Planning
Without clear guidance to your family members and to health professionals, you may have no choice but to allow unwanted medical procedures to be performed that can leave you in a medical condition that does not meet with your personal desires. Making your own End-of-life care decisions, ahead of time, can give your family the satisfaction that they carried out your last wishes.
Consider having your elder law lawyer draft a Health Care Proxy with Advance Medical Directives for you. You can discuss the implications of your decision with your attorney as well as other estate planning steps you can take. If you have a major diagnosis or your health has been declining, schedule an appointment or have your spouse or adult child do it with you so you can also have the peace of mind that comes with having made your own decision about the type of care to be administered and the quality of life you want to sustain if possible.
Consult Elder Law Lawyer Patricia Bloom-McDonald
There is no reason to wait before having a Health Care Proxy with Advance Medical Directives. Tragedy can strike at any time and being prepared will help your family members in the event critical decisions need to be made quickly.
Patricia Bloom-McDonald is an elder law lawyer who has been representing the interests and rights of the elderly for decades. Call her today for a consultation.