There are two sad parts to this story that illustrates why advance directives are needed. The first was that the family panicked and had a feeding tube put in, despite their mother’s wishes. The second, says WRAL in the article “Advance directives lift burden of tough decisions at end of life,” was that after the woman died several years later, her family found the advance directive.
Without knowing about a loved one’s wishes for their end-of-life care, it’s hard to honor them. That’s why documentation, like advance directives, are so important. So is telling your family where your important legal documents are.
What is an advance directive?
An advance directive is a broad legal term that can include several different documents, but mostly refers to a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney. These documents give you the ability to express what medical care you want and don’t want.
Cases like the women mentioned above highlight the importance of this kind of document. While her advance directive was misplaced, many people don’t have them at all. These are important to address non-financial end-of-life issues, both for you and for your families.
Most people would prefer not to have life-prolonging measures implemented. Without advance directives, the decision to remove a breathing machine or a heart machine can be even more difficult for a spouse or a child. The burdens are not just emotional.
If there is no decision maker named and family members disagree about what you would have wanted, a battle may break out in the family that results in a court fight.
A few notes on advance directives:
- They can be created at any time, but most people tend to consider them at midlife or close to retirement.
- The document can be amended at any time and should be reassessed through the course of your life.
- One decision maker should be appointed to avoid arguments.
- A HIPAA release should be included with the advance directives so the decision maker can fully informed of your medical condition by your healthcare providers.
Health care agents, doctors and loved ones should all be provided with copies, and the originals should also be accessible.
Talk with your estate planning attorney about including an advance directive and a health care power of attorney among your estate planning documents. This is a burden that you can make lighter for those you love.
Reference: WRAL (Sep. 18, 2019) “Advance directives lift burden of tough decisions at end of life”