Key to Stopping Family Fights on End of Life Issues: Be as Specific as Possible
One of the biggest challenges people face is making sure their wishes are honored at the end of their life. While simple on its face, there are two complexities families face.
First, medical breakthroughs may provide tougher decisions for families to make. For example, will a new drug or procedure be able to extend your life? If so, would you want that? What would be your quality of life?
Second, how do you stop your family from arguing when they say something like: “Mom would not want that” -or- “Mom would want that!”
The possible misunderstanding of end of life issues can cause lifetime rifts among the survivors.
Step 1: Have the talk
The first step is having an open, detailed conversation with family members about how you want to be treated at the end of your life. If you are not sure where to start, use this newsletter to start the conversation.
If you want something longer, try this recent article from US News & World Report (http://tinyurl.com/bdd6vo5) on end of life issues. It’s one of the most important conversations you can have, but it also can be one of the hardest. So don’t have this talk over the phone.
This is a conversation that needs to be face-to-face so there is no room for misunderstandings. The person you choose to empower you as your healthcare advocate will make decisions that affect the quality and type of care you receive later in life, so being on the same page is vital.
There are nuances in the type of care you might want. For example: Perhaps you wouldn’t want to be on a ventilator indefinitely but would want one temporarily if you had pneumonia and the ventilator could keep you alive until the medicine got you back on your feet.
What to do in case of strokes, accidents or dementia also needs to be discussed, and the earlier the better. Waiting to have these conversations until you are near the end may very well be too late to have your wishes honored.
Step 2: Get it in writing-the more, the better
It’s also key to have a health care power of attorney. This puts a key person in the driver’s seat of ALL health care decisions, including end of life issues.
Creating a health care power of attorney solves two issues: I) any new medical procedure or opportunity can be accepted or rejected by the power holder, and 2) someone you put in charge has authority to make decisions.
Step 3: Properly drafted documents
Your documents should be prepared by an experienced estate planning or elder law attorney. This is absolutely crucial. Never fall into a sense of false security after buying planning documents churned out by an online will provider or a “trust in a box” kit they bought from an office supply store.