If you are like many Americans, you may have put off speaking with your doctor and loved ones about your wishes for end-of-life care. However, having those difficult conversations is important.
In addition to ensuring that health care providers know your treatment preferences, putting a plan in place may prevent your loved ones from having to make a heart-wrenching decision without knowing what you truly want.
Creating an advance directive
Whether due to an injury, illness or mental health condition, at some point you may not be able to communicate an informed decision about your treatment options. An advance directive allows you to document medical decisions “in advance.”
For instance, if your condition is terminal or vegetative, your directive may give instructions about what types of life-prolonging treatments you do or do not want to receive, such as mechanical breathing, tube feeding or kidney dialysis.
Setting up medical power of attorney
End-of-life medical situations are seldom straightforward. Medical power of attorney allows you to name a trusted agent to manage health care decisions if you become incapacitated. Your agent should understand your personal values and religious beliefs as well as your wishes regarding potentially invasive treatments.
Combining an advance directive with power of attorney
It may be wise to combine an advance directive with medical power of attorney. In an end-of-life situation, your agent should follow the instructions given in your advance directive. However, an agent with power of attorney may also be able to help monitor and manage your ongoing care, including making an informed judgment should the unexpected occur.