A living will is a legal document that expresses your opinion and provides directives for your medical care in a situation in which you are unable to express yourself. It is the best way to manage healthcare when you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
Asking if you have a living will currently active is one of the current questions being asked of individuals when they are being admitted into the hospital. This does not just include seniors, who may be more likely to experience a physically incapacitating events, but also all individuals who are over the age of 18 and no longer under the legal care of their parents.
But, because seniors have a higher likelihood of suffering an incapacitating event which will render them unable to express their desires for their medical care, it is important for them to have designed a living will to speak in their place. A living will takes the guesswork out of your healthcare for your family, your loved ones and your physicians and help them to know exactly what it is that you would like to have done for yourself.
The simplest, and yet the most expensive, thing to do is to choose a lawyer and have them create the living will. The cost can run around several hundreds of dollars depending upon the area of the country in which you live and the attorney you hire. Another way to accomplish this task is to use an online creation software program. You will be asked to answer a number of questions after which the staff will check the document and mail it to you for signatures. A small charge will be levied for this.
And the most cost-effective way is to use a fillable form that you download from the Internet or ask to get from a charitable organization. Many office supply stores also supply them and are available from the state government, hospitals and hospices.
Whichever form you choose to take there are questions that you must answer before filling out your form. Healthcare options will be included in the living will, also called an advanced directive, that will include orders for feeding tubes, oxygen supplies and “do not resuscitate” orders. You may want to discuss these options with your family physician, family members or close personal friends.
Most advanced directives will cover issues about cardiac resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, antibiotics, artificial nutrition, artificial hydration, pain medication and do not resuscitate orders. It’s important that individuals think clearly about how they feel about these issues prior to signing their advanced directive.
A living will can be made as specific as the individual would like regarding these situations. You should be very specific about how you feel about artificial nutrition, hydration, and cardiac resuscitation since states differ in their laws. “Comfort measures” can include anything to make the end of your life easier that will not prolong your life such as pain medication and oxygen therapy.
A living will gives direction to physicians and family about your medical care but a durable power of attorney for health care will give that power to a specific individual and take it out of your hands completely. This document will allow you to plan a proxy, or agent, to make medical decisions when you are incapable of communicating them. Most of the time these decisions will not be easy ones and can include things such as withholding artificial nutrition or hydration or issuing a do not resuscitate order.
A living will addresses the desires of the patients under dire circumstances while a durable power of attorney will allow an individual to make other types of health care and treatment decisions if you are deemed incompetent.
Before doing anything remember to think deeply about your feelings and what they mean to you and decide on the specifics of what you want to address. If you want comfort measures placed into your living will then specify which ones you’d like and not like and if you want to prepare a durable power of attorney to choose a person who is close to you that can help make your medical decisions if you cannot. It might be in your best interest to choose individuals to serve in the capacity is your healthcare agent if one is unable to make it to the hospital and enough time.
Once you have a living will and durable power of attorney it’s important to distribute those to your primary care physician and family members who may be present at the time of an accident or if circumstances are beyond your control. If you are being admitted into the hospital it is also wise to bring a copy with you so the hospital has one on file and can rely on that should anything happen.