In life, we plan for many things – marriage, children, vacation, college and even buying a home or automobile. However, we are often reluctant to plan for the end of life. While the prospect of passing away is not a pleasant one to think about, planning ahead helps you to ensure that your wishes are honored. It also increases opportunities for you to enjoy all the time you have left and decreases stress for your loved ones. When families have to make end of life decisions for loved ones without guidance, disputes often arise. This can lead to lasting conflicts that take years to resolve or even cannot be resolved at all.
The best way to avoid these struggles at the end of life is to have a plan in place. Taking a proactive approach as early as possible in your life helps to ensure your wishes are honored. It also provides your family with a road map to follow as they help you navigate your final stage in life. Having conversations, preparing legal documents and putting all of your wishes in writing are collectively known as advanced care planning.
Advanced Care Planning Involves:
- Being aware of and having a clear understanding about current and future healthcare choices
- Making treatment choices that are in line with your personal beliefs
- Talking about your choices with your loved ones and medical professionals involved in your care
- Putting in writing all the things you want and the things you do not want too
- Identifying a trusted person to make healthcare and financial decisions for you if you are ever unable to
- Having continued conversations as you age and your health changes so information is always up to date
Advanced Planning Documents
In the course of making your plans, there are some important documents that need to be considered. For most people, these include a will, power of attorney and medical power of attorney. Your will lists the people you wish to leave property and belongings to after you pass. It can also list the individuals you wish to name as custodians for any minor children. A power of attorney provides a person with legal authority to make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated. A medical power of attorney is similar. However, with this document, the person is authorized to make medical decisions for you. It is important to know that power of attorney documents do not take away your right to make decisions for yourself. They only come into play when you are unable to do so temporarily or on a permanent basis.
DNR and Living Will
In addition to these documents, some people choose to sign a do not resuscitate order. This indicates CPR should not be started if your heart stops. A living will lists life saving measures you do and do not want to be used if you have a terminal illness or are in a persistent vegetative state.
With all of these documents, it is advised to consult a lawyer. Any medical documents should be discussed with your doctor as well as your spouse, adult children and other relatives or caregivers who are providing you with support. If you at any time enter the hospital or hospice care, it is important to share the documents with the appropriate professionals to ensure your wishes are honored.
Salus Homecare Orange County encourages all of our patients and their loved ones to consider the importance of advanced planning. Doing this early in life helps you to know you are prepared, and it takes away some of the stress if you are ever diagnosed with a life-limiting illness.