Living wills and advance directives describe your preferences for end-of-life care. These documents speak for you when you’re not able to speak for yourself.
Living wills and other advance directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Advance directives guide choices for doctors if you’re terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life.
By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf. Advance directives aren’t just for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age. It’s important to prepare and have these documents.
Power of Attorney
A medical or health care power of attorney is a type of advance directive in which you name a person to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so. The person you name may be a spouse, other family member or friend. You may also choose one or more alternates in case the person you chose is unable to fulfill the role.
Choosing a person to act as your health care agent is important. Even if you have other legal documents regarding your care, not all situations can be anticipated and some require someone to make a judgment about your likely care wishes. You should choose a person who:
- Meets your state’s requirements for a health care agent
- Is willing and able to discuss medical care issues with you
- Can be trusted to make decisions in line with your wishes
A living will is a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as other decisions such as pain management or organ donation.
In determining your wishes, think about your values, such as the importance to you of being independent and self-sufficient, and what you feel would make your life not worth living.
You should address a number of possible end-of-life care decisions in your living will. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about any of these issues:
- Resuscitation: restarts the heart when it has stopped beating.
- Mechanical ventilation: takes over your breathing if you’re unable to do so.
- Tube feeding: supplies the body with nutrients and fluids intravenously or via a tube in the stomach.
- Comfort care (palliative care): includes any number of interventions that may be used to keep you comfortable and manage pain.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Do Not Intubate (DNI) Orders
You don’t need to have an advance directive or living will to have do not resuscitate (DNR) and do not intubate (DNI) orders. If you have a living will be sure to mention it even if you have a DNR or DNI order on file.
Creating Advance Directives
Advance directives need to be in writing. Each state has different forms and requirements for creating legal documents. You can ask a lawyer to help you with the process. At Miller Law Group, we are happy to help you create an advance directive in Oregon or Washington which will comply with State requirements.
When you have completed your documents, you need to do the following:
- Keep the originals in a safe but easily accessible place.
- Keep a record of who has your advance directives.
- Talk to family members and other important people in your life about your advance directives and your health care wishes.
Reviewing and Changing Advance Directives
You can change your directives at any time. If you want to make changes, you must create a new form, distribute new copies and destroy all old copies. You should consider reviewing your directives and creating new ones in the following situations:
- New diagnosis.A diagnosis of a disease that is terminal or that significantly alters your life may lead you to make changes in your living will. Discuss with your doctor the kind of treatment and care decisions that might be made during the expected course of the disease.
- Change of marital status.When you marry, divorce, become separated or are widowed, you may need to select a new health care agent.
- Change in wishes.Over time your thoughts about end-of-life care may change. Review your directives from time to time to be sure they reflect your current values and wishes.
If you are getting married or have recently gotten married, reviewing your will, living will and power of attorney are essential. If you’ve not had these prior and have gotten married, now is a perfect time to get these items done and give your loved one peace of mind. At Miller Law Group, we are happy to help you create these documents. This will give you and those you love peace of mind.