Preparing for the Legal and Medical Aspects of End-of-Life
Planning for the end-of-life transition is something most people still avoid as a difficult topic. It’s true: for many people this topic is just too sad and scary to talk about, says Flagstaff Business News in the article “Easing the End-of-Life Transition with Advance Care Planning.”
However, planning for one’s death is a kindness to loved ones, family members, friends or even neighbors when others are left to make decisions about medical care, when an individual can’t do it for themselves.
In the estate planning field, this is called advance care planning. It involves learning about the decisions that often need to be made, considering the options and decisions ahead of time, and memorializing those decisions with the correct and enforceable legal documents. This gives a person the ability to think about what they want in the way of treatment or care, and what they don’t want.
It makes things much easier for the survivors, who otherwise have to guess what was on their loved one’s mind or what they would have wanted.
Here are the medical decisions that most frequently need to be made:
CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. This is to get the heart to start beating again, when it has stopped and can range from the use of hands, a defibrillator or chemical means.
Ventilator or Assisted Breathing. This is the use of a machine, connected to a breathing tube that is inserted through the mouth or lungs and down the throat. It is not comfortable, and the patient cannot speak with the tube in their throat.
Artificial Nutrition. This is the delivery of nutrition through an IV (intravenous) or a feeding tube.
Comfort Care. Doing anything to make an individual comfortable at the end of their life. It can include everything from medication to emotional and spiritual counseling. The goal is to provide a person with a dignified end of life, while relieving as much suffering as possible.
Once decisions have been made about these medical treatments, it’s time to get them down on paper.
You’ll need a Living Will. This is a written document expressing your wishes for end-of-life care. If you cannot speak on your own behalf, this is the document doctors will use to guide your care.
Durable Power of Attorney. This is a legal document used to name another person to make health care decisions on your behalf.
In addition, you should have your estate planning attorney prepare a Last Will and Testament, so your property is distributed according to your wishes. An estate planning attorney can help make sure all the details are addressed.
These are not fun topics but thinking about what you would like to have occur and documenting your wishes provides direction for your loved ones, who would otherwise be guessing at what you would have wanted.
Reference: Flagstaff Business News (Aug. 2, 2019) “Easing the End-of-Life Transition with Advance Care Planning”