If we had a crystal ball and could see into the future, we would not need to prepare ahead for end of life decisions.
The National Institute on Aging gives three simple, but important steps to putting your affairs in order:
• Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. You could set up a file, put everything in a desk or dresser drawer, or just list the information and location of papers in a notebook. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in a file at home. Check each year to see if there’s anything new to add.
• Tell a trusted family member or friend where you put all your important papers. You don’t need to tell this friend or family member about your personal affairs, but someone should know where you keep your papers in case of emergency. If you don’t have a relative or friend you trust, ask a lawyer to help.
• Give consent in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your caregiver as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get needed information. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a form.
Directives or Living Will
Advance directives are legal documents that state the kind of medical care or end of life decisions you want made on your behalf. It is a way for you to communicate your wishes to family or health care professionals.
The Living Will as part of your directives gives your consent or refusal for sustained medical treatment when you are not able to give it yourself. If this document is not in place then a family member or physician will decide such things as:
• Resuscitation if breathing or heartbeat stops
• Use of breathing machines
• Use of feeding tubes
• Medications or medical procedures
Advance Directives and Living Wills are legal throughout the United States; however, some states may not honor other states’ directive documents. Be sure to check with the state you live in for their requirements.
Review your directives periodically. They do not expire, but your wishes may change. A new or revised Advanced Directive invalidates the old one. Be sure your family member or healthcare proxy has a current copy.