Anyone remember what the death rate is in the U.S.? It’s one in one! No one is making it out alive. The good news? You can make it easier on the people you leave behind by preparing, thoroughly preparing, your last wishes. We’re not talking about just preparing a Last Will (only about 42 percent of Americans do); I’m talking about making sure your family knows what to do with you if suddenly you are unable to make your own decision but you are still here among the living!
Planning for the end of life now could save you and your family a tremendous amount of grief and undue hardship. This really is something you should make time for, and get completed, before it’s too late. Once completed and filed somewhere safe, like with an attorney or copies left with trusted friends, and/or family; you can rest knowing that your wishes will be honored if you are not able to speak for yourself.
You could be faced with a medical condition that leaves you unable to make your own medical decisions, at any age. However, as we age, this process of documenting your wishes grows even more important. While there are many names for this process, usually this specific pre-planning is called an Advanced Directive.
Research shows that advance directives can make a difference, and that people who document their preferences in this way are more likely to get the care they prefer at the end of life than people who do not.
Start by thinking about what type of care you do, or do not, want to receive in case of a medical emergency or terminal diagnosis. Your personal values are key. Is your highest priority to have the most days of life – or is it the quality of those days? What if an illness leaves you paralyzed or in a permanent coma would you want your life extended by artificial means (for instance, a ventilator or some other method of keeping your body alive)?
Not only do you want to designate the type of care you do, or do NOT, wish to receive; but you’ll need to designate a person who can help make sure your Advanced Directives are carried out. Many people choose a close friend, someone at their church, or even a family member.
Here are some steps to take to make the process easier, including ways to legally document your choices to ensure your choices are carried out.
In the State of Texas recommends that you complete two separate forms, an Advance Directive: A Living Will called a “Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates” and a “Medical Power of Attorney” (also called a Health Care Proxy). These two documents can be found on the State of Texas Website (or click on the links provided if you are reading this electronically).
You and two (2) witnesses must sign your “Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates” (Living Will) for it to be considered valid. There are some rules that limit who can be the witness on your document. They;
Can NOT be the person appointed as agent for the document
Can NOT be related to you by blood or marriage
Can NOT be entitled to any portion of your estate upon your death
Can NOT be your attending physician, or an employee of your physician
Can NOT have a claim against any portion of your estate upon your death
Can NOT be involved in providing you care
Can NOT be an officer, director, partner, or business office employee of the health care facility which is providing you care
Can NOT be an officer, director, partner, or business office employee of any parent company of the health care facility which is providing you care.
The same rules apply (above) about who can, or can NOT, sign your “Medical Power of Attorney” (Health Care Proxy).
This is a quick overview to, hopefully, get you inspired to get these important documents in order and filed away for safe-keeping. For more information please visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/advance-care-planning-healthcare-directives#proxy for an in-depth article about care planning.
Forms for the State of Texas are found at https://hhs.texas.gov/sites/default/files/documents/laws-regulations/forms/LivingWill/LivingWill.pdf
Lori Jo Thomas is the Marketer for San Angelo Home Health, a locally owned home-health agency that consistently outperforms the State and National Star Rating averages as assigned by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).