It’s not an easy thing to think about, but planning ahead for end-of-life care can prevent stress and anxiety among family members and make sure your wishes are met whenever the time comes.
The most effective way to set your wishes in place is to develop an advance directive. Requirements for this legal record vary by state (find your state’s requirements here), but do not typically require help from a lawyer and can simply be a notarized statement of your wishes.
An advance directive is actually made up of two separate documents: a living will and a health care power of attorney. Some states combine these documents into one, so be sure to check.
- A living will is a written plan for what types of medical or life-sustaining treatment a person wants when they are unable to speak for themselves.
- A healthcare power of attorney designates someone to make health care decisions on the person’s behalf when the person cannot communicate for themselves. This is different from a regular durable power of attorney, which usually is for financial matters.
Despite the importance and relative ease of creating an advance directive, they’re not quite as common as you’d expect. According to The American Journal of Medicine, only 26.3% of Americans report having an advance directive in place. And the California Healthcare Foundation reports that only 7% of people reported having an end-of-life conversation with their doctor.
Sharing this information with family members, your doctor, and the person you have chosen to serve as your health care proxy can help provide peace of mind for your loved ones. An advance directive can be changed at any time, as long as the person is considered of sound mind to do so.
To learn more about end-of-life care and ensuring your wishes are met, check out the following resources or look for an informational class in your area.