When do you know that someone’s quality of life should become their quality of death?
Death is a tough subject to broach with our parents, spouses, and other loved ones, yet it is inevitable. Making decisions about it now—instead of in the midst of a crisis—can ensure your or your loved one’s voice takes center stage in the discussion.
This is where a health care directive comes into play. This legal document dictates a person’s wishes for their health if they were to become incapacitated. If you and your loved ones have one, it can guide your family through difficult decisions during a crisis.
It takes courage to allow someone to die; knowing you are following the instructions of the patient can spare a lot of suffering for the family. Here are a few things to consider when creating a health care directive for you or your loved one.
Start with a conversation.
The key to creating a meaningful health care directive is to talk about it—families need to openly discuss their end-of-life plans. Everyone should feel they have a sense of control when they are dying and be reassured their family is united in support of their decisions. A well-written health care directive will express these wishes.
Be open and honest.
Discussing your wishes with your doctors, children, siblings and significant others while you are still healthy and mentally capable is vitally important. It can be uncomfortable at first, but letting your family know how important this is to you—and periodically reaffirming your sentiments—can help you have a peaceful and dignified death when the time comes.
Articulate your wishes.
Vague statements such as “I do not want to be hooked up to any machines” is not enough. It’s critical to make specific decisions about your health care while you are able—use your voice while you have a choice. This can ensure you receive only the care you want, including long-term care. It can also help to preserve family harmony and protect assets, as unwanted care has a cost.
Most important, you can legally empower your health care agent to follow your wishes and to be your advocate while working within the health care system.
What happens if you don’t have a health care directive?
If you do not have this important document in place then all life-sustaining treatments and interventions will be delivered by a hospital, whether you desire this or not. These heroic efforts could cause you and your family unnecessary anguish since often this only causes the patient to endure a long and slow decline.
Give the gift of guidance.
Never assume that your family will know what to do in a time of crisis. They will need (and be grateful for) guidance from a health care directive. My next blog post will discuss the various parts of this important document—stay tuned.
In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about creating a meaningful health care directive for you or a loved one, we can help you start the process. Contact us today.