What Is A Living Will And Why You Should Have One

power-of-attorneyPeople tend to avoid talking about certain things such as … death. It’s going to happen sooner or later folks, so no point in skirting the topic.

Do you have a living will? Perhaps you don’t know what that is. It’s time you figured it out.

A living will takes the burden off family members in regard to making monumental decisions on your behalf. If you have put your express desires in writing regarding end-of-life care there is no second-guessing by your family. Living wills and advance directives inform the physicians and family members of your preferences. If you are unable to speak yourself, this document speaks for you.

P.B.: My living will/advance medical directive states my desire for handling the end of my life. I love living; however, I do not want to be hooked up to machines if there is no chance of recovery. I chose to make these decisions so my family will not have to do so.

As uncomfortable as it may be to do this, do it anyway because it is extremely helpful to your loved ones and/or to medical personnel. The last thing you want is your family getting in a big brouhaha over your deathbed trying to figure out what to do. Advance directives and living wills are legal instruments and instructions regarding medical decisions for yourself. When you plan ahead (as creepy as this may seem) you eliminate a lot of grief for your loved ones.

A.L., 46: I have had a living will/advanced directives in place for years. Having worked in healthcare for over 25 years, I have seen too many individuals have to make this decision at a time when their health was quickly declining, a time when emotions can overtake logic. I believe everyone should discuss their end of life plans with family long before a death is anticipated. If everyone knows your true feelings, and it is in writing, then your family will not be second guessing what you would want when you are no longer able to make that decision for yourself.

When you draw up a living will, you name a medical power of attorney. It can be your spouse, your child or whomever you wish. This person makes the ultimate decisions for you when you are unable to do so. Choose wisely. This person is your advocate and representative and must be trustworthy and agree to your end-of-life preferences. He or she should not be part of your medical care team.

One of the most important and often divisive decisions that must be made is whether to extend life even though the patient is no longer self-sufficient and independent versus pulling the plug and allowing the person to succumb. Families have come to blows over this.

If you can’t breath, do you want to be hooked up to a ventilator? How long would you want to be kept on a vent? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Do you want to be fed intravenously and, if so, for how long? Are you an organ donor? Do you want to donate your body to science? Let your family and physician know.

In your living will you need to address various topics starting with resuscitation. When the heart stops beating do you want to be resuscitated? Of course, there are many factors influencing this decision. If you are 45 and your heart stops beating, heck, yes, resuscitate me. If you are 95 and have been incapacitated for years maybe not so much.

There are numerous choices to take under advisement long before you are in a situation where these determinations must be made.

An option, which many are selecting, is palliative care, which means ‘comfort care.’ Interventions are used to manage the patient’s pain and keep him comfortable while adhering to the person’s treatment wishes. For example: No invasive treatments or tests, allow me to die at home and keep the morphine coming.

State specific forms are available on various websites including the National Hospice Palliative Care Organization and the American Bar Association or contact an attorney to help you.

Discuss this with your family. Put your living will/advance directive in a place easily found by your caretakers. Tell them where it is. A copy should be given to your physician.

B.E.A., an attorney and a nurse: The HCPOA (healthcare power of attorney) gives you the right to do anything that the patient can’t consent to, request another doctor, move to another facility, refuse certain medications and/or treatment or ask for them. Anything the patient can do the POA can do.

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About This Blogger

Cindi Pearce

Cindi Pearce has been writing professionally since the days of manual typewriters. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University, Cindi is especially interested in women’s health concerns. She teaches yoga, is an amateur belly dancer, loves mowing her five acres of land with her beloved zero turn mower, has three grown children, one granddaughter and five large dogs. Cindi has managed to stay married to the same man for 35 years.

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