Advance Care Directive – Imagine yourself in the intensive care unit of a hospital after a major stroke or heart attack. Doctors aren’t sure if you are going to live or die, and if you do live, they’re not sure if you will be able to recognize or interact with family and friends.
Do your loved ones know what your wishes are in this situation?
There is simply no way to know when a sudden health event or an accident could render a person unable to communicate, advises The Advocate in the article “If you were on death’s door, what happens next? Advance care directives can make sure that your wishes are carried out.”
When you are not able to speak, you can’t tell loved ones that you’ve had a good life and you are okay with letting go, or if you want to fight to stay alive, no matter how invasive the process may be.
That’s why you need an advance care directive. Anyone over age 18 needs to give this some thought and then take the next step and have the necessary document prepared. It’s a good idea for anyone over age 18 to have a will prepared as well, especially if they own a home, car or have personal property they would like to pass along to any specific people.
The second part of advance care is to name a person as your health care power of attorney. That person will be in charge of making medical decisions when you cannot. People typically name their spouse, but that’s not always the best option. An honest assessment of how your spouse responds during an extremely emotional crisis needs to be made. It’s possible that you may be better off naming a trusted friend.
Here are the steps to follow for Advance Care Planning with an advanced care directive:
- Identify someone who will take on the role of health care power of attorney.
- Reflect on your values and beliefs and what living well means to you personally.
- Consider religious, spiritual, or personal beliefs and how they align with your end of life wishes.
- Share your decisions with the person you wish to take on the role of health care power of attorney.
- Make sure that person is able and willing to carry out the duties, even if the family or other people feel opposite of your wishes.
- Meet with an estate planning attorney to document your health care power of attorney.
While you are attending to creating an advanced care directive, speak with the estate planning attorney about having a will and a power of attorney created. Once these documents are taken care of, you and your family will be better protected, in the event of an unexpected tragedy.
As time goes by, the people you have chosen for these roles may age or your relationship with them may change. Every now and then, check in with them to ensure that they are still willing and able to handle the responsibility of an advanced care directive and power of attorney.
Reference: The Advocate (April 14, 2019) “If you were on death’s door, what happens next? Advance care directives can make sure your wishes are carried out”