It can be difficult to focus on practical details when you or your loved one is in the midst of a medical crisis. No matter how important some of these considerations may be, they’ll likely seem trivial in a time of crisis – and for others, it may be too late to attend to them. For that reason, it’s helpful to consider these issues before they become pressing.
If people become unable to direct their own medical care because of illness, legal documents such as an Advance Directive, Living Will, or Power of Attorney can set forth an individual’s wishes for future healthcare so family members are all clear on the preferences. An Advance Care Directive helps ensure healthcare wishes and end-of-life concerns are known and respected. These documents address how aggressively doctors should pursue life-sustaining measures and whether quality of life or comfort should be paramount concerns.
Common Advance Directives Are:
- Living Will — This document sets forth medical wishes to guide healthcare professionals if a person becomes mentally or physically unable to make decisions.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy — These forms designate someone to act on an ill person’s behalf when necessary.
- DNR or OOH DNR — The common abbreviations for Do Not Resuscitate and Out of Hospital Do Not Resuscitate orders, these documents convey the patient’s wishes not to be revived if the heart stops or breathing ceases.
These wishes should be explained thoroughly with everyone involved. Make sure the patient or his or her loved one takes the following steps:
- Make a copy. Anyone named as proxy in a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare should have a copy of the document and know the patient’s goals for medical care. The proxy, a family member and a lawyer (if any) should know where additional copies of the form are kept.
- Talk with medical staff. Talk with the doctors to be sure the patient’s wishes are understood and can be followed. Ask them to place a copy of the Advance Directive in the person’s permanent medical record.
- Inform family members. Discuss wishes for end-of-life medical care with family members. Acknowledge this is a difficult topic. It may help to begin by talking about a recent case in the news or the treatment of someone the family knows. This discussion should be repeated from time to time, particularly as circumstances change.
The following are topics that you may want to discuss with your legal and financial advisors. Gather into a single envelope or folder various records and documents such as:
- Bank & Credit Card Accounts
- Securities, Investments & IRAs
- Property Titles & Tax Bills
- Automobile Titles
- Income Tax Returns
- Insurance Policies & Loans
- Social Security & Veteran’s Benefits
- Power Of Attorney & Wills
Advanced Planning Resources:
Aging Well With VNA Podcast:
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys: www.naela.org
National Elder Law Foundation: www.nelf.org