Making challenging medical decisions is hard enough under normal circumstances, but a crisis situation can make the process even more difficult. That’s why many patients and families prefer to make important life decisions now, so they don’t have to face impossible choices later. By planning ahead, you and your family can make choices with confidence and peace of mind.
That’s where advance care planning comes into play.
Advance care planning allows you to make your own care decisions now with time to think through what you really want and need, rather than waiting for an emergency. If you were to face a serious medical diagnosis or if you were in an accident where you’re not able to make a decision, your advance care plan would take the burden off of you, your family or loved ones, to direct that your wishes are carried out.
A living will describes under what conditions an attempt to prolong life should be started or stopped if you were diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or were permanently unconscious. Before you prepare a living will, you should think about the kind of life-sustaining treatments you would want. For example, if your heart stopped, under what circumstances, if any, would you want to be resuscitated by CPR? Would you want to be placed on a mechanical ventilator? If so, under what conditions and for how long? Would you want to treat infections with antibiotics or would you rather let them run their course? These are all valuable questions to consider as you create your living will.
Durable POA for Healthcare
Because you can’t anticipate every possible healthcare situation, a living will has limitations. That’s why it’s also valuable to create a durable Power of Attorney (POA) for healthcare in addition to (or instead of) a living will. This legal document lets you authorize a proxy (POA) to make all your healthcare decisions if you’re not in a position to make those decisions for yourself.
In addition to the legal documents, it’s important to have a conversation with your proxy to clearly explain your values, beliefs and quality of life wishes.