Planning for your passing or the passing of a loved one can be a very difficult process. It’s a process that many people may be inclined to avoid altogether. However, avoiding or ignoring end of life planning won’t solve your problems. In fact, by ignoring end of life planning, you may be putting very tough decisions and even guesswork onto the shoulders of those who love you most; and no one should have to guess what their loved one would or wouldn’t want regarding their end of life care.
Accordingly, it is very important that you discuss and plan with your close relationships and medical professionals the health care choices surrounding end of life care and the manner of your death. Before you begin, you may want to spend some time thinking about what you want your end of life care to look like. For example, do you want all potential medical treatments to be tried in order to save your life, regardless of the impact on your quality of life? Would you prefer to spend your final days with family and friends in the comfort of their home, or would you like to spend them in a supervised medical environment where loved ones can come and visit? To help make your wishes known and ensure they are followed, there are very specific legal and healthcare tools that you can use regarding end-of-life care and the manner of death.
Some common legal tools available for end of life planning:
End-of-life planning can include direction on where the patient wants to spend their final days, which treatments they wish to receive, and whether they want to pursue all life saving or resuscitation options.
An Advanced Directive or “Living Will” allows your wishes regarding medical treatment to be known in the event that a person is unable to communicate their health care decisions. The medical decisions in an advanced directive can include decisions about end-of-life care. Having a family discussion about your health care choices and advanced directive can help make sure that everyone in the family is on the same page and knows exactly what you want. A Living Will can include instructions on the use of breathing machines, resuscitation if the heartbeat or breathing stops, or whether the patient wants tube or intravenous feeding.
It’s important to keep in mind that a living will is not the tool you can use to leave property to your loved ones, name an executor, or name a guardian for any children. That document is called a traditional will or a last will and testament. In this case, we’re discussing a living will, which is also called a health care declaration. A living will is a document that you can use to describe the kind of health care you wish to get if you are incapacitated and cannot speak on your own.
Additionally, a “Do Not Resuscitate” or “DNR” request can also be signed by the patient. A “DNR” request instructs health care professionals that if your heart stops or you stop breathing, they should not make an attempt to resuscitate.
Other end of life planning can include signing a durable power of attorney that designates someone as your health care proxy or “agent” to make your medical decisions if you become unable to do so. If you do name a health care proxy, you should make sure that this person is comfortable with your choice and knows your wishes regarding end of life care. It may also be helpful to discuss these issues with your family when everyone is together so that everyone knows your wishes.
Planning end-of-life care can ensure that your wishes for the manner of your death are followed. In the event that you become unable to make health care decisions, it also alleviates the burden from your family members in having to guess what you may or may not want. If you or your loved one needs assistance with any of these topics or Elder Care law issues, call 856-281-3131. At Scott Counsel, we would be glad to answer your questions and help you craft the plan that works for you.