Thursday, April 11, 2019

Making Your Wishes Known

Have you had any tough conversations lately? If you haven’t, maybe you should.

Think about someone telling you:

“If I were ever at a point when I no longer have any control over who I am and no hope of having any quality of life, then I want to be allowed to die and not be kept alive by machines.”

Although these words may be difficult to hear, we at least know what someone else is thinking. The dangerous side of not sharing our intentions is asking our loved ones to read our minds in a life and death situation.  No one should have to make that kind of call to help determine the outcome.

Much emphasis is placed on our Last Will and Testament; however, we also need to look at the potential circumstances leading up to our death. Without any advance warning, our lives could dramatically change.  An unexpected accident. An unanticipated heart attack or stroke.  An unsuccessful surgery.  When our wishes are not made known to our families, we will compound the anxiety, fear, and grief.   Our family may be confused about making the right choices when our medical treatment is on line.

A personal care and health care directive steps in and serves an important purpose in our overall estate plan.  This document, often referred to as a “living will”, provides specific directions to a trusted individual to speak on our behalf and represent our wishes when we are incapable of speaking for ourselves.

The power of attorney for personal care begins like this,  

“I appoint my daughter to be my attorney for personal care, and I authorize my attorney to make decisions on my behalf with respect to my personal care if I am incapable of personal care, and any conditions and restrictions or specific instructions contained therein.” 

Our advanced health care directive addresses two aspects, our health care and personal care. Health care decisions primarily focus on the medical methods and procedures while personal care decisions relate to our daily lives, such as housing, nutrition, hygiene, clothing, and safety.  When we don’t have a voice, this directive will be our substitute advising both our families and medical professionals. We can be crystal-clear about our intentions if we do not wish heroic measures to be taken to prolong our lives or be kept alive by life-support machines when there is no hope of recovery.  Everyone will know without a doubt our wishes. The best outcome from any unfortunate incident is taking the pressure off our families from making difficult decisions.

In her book, You Can’t Take It With You, Sandra E. Foster stresses this document’s importance for two reasons.

In the event that you become incapacitated some day, I believe it is important to prepare a document regarding your future personal medical and personal care 1) so that you have legally chosen someone you trust to make these decisions on your behalf, and 2) so that you have provided surviving family with guidance to help them carry out your wishes. 

When we appoint someone to make decisions on our behalf, we should respectfully ask them if they want the “job”.  If we choose more than one attorney, they can make decisions on our behalf together unless we specifically state that they may act jointly or separately. 

When we hire someone for the job as our attorney, they must match the job’s criteria. We wholeheartedly declare, “I choose you because…”

“I trust you.”

“You understand my personal values.”

“You will follow my instructions.”

“You will make decisions in my best interest.”

“And most importantly, you will stand up for my wishes.”

On our birthday or Christmas, everyone asks “What are you wishing for?”  This is generally an easy conversation.  The most important, yet often difficult, conversation is sharing your wishes about our health care.  Your thoughts in writing can be the best gift you can give someone.  You’re revealing your plans in case something unexpectedly happens to you.  Let’s consider taking the burden upon ourselves to write our health care directives rather than casting the burden onto our families.

Please share in the comments below if you have made your wishes known to your family.  If not, why not?  Do you have any valid reasons? 

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