Part 2 of a three entry mini-series focusing on the tough issues related to end of life care.

We’ve talked about the when and why of advanced health care decisions– now it’s time to talk about the how and the what.  While neither of these aspects are easy decisions, the “how” is the most clear-cut and the less arduous to address so that’s what we’ll look at first.

HOW:  There are definite legal steps to make sure that your wishes are followed in your later years and the bottom rung is to find a good estate law attorney to help.  The internet opens up tons of advice and free online forms but there is no substitution for expertise…especially because the laws are state specific.  The only way to make sure you have your bases covered is to find an experienced lawyer in your geographical area.  He or she will be able to help you prepare so that there are no major hang-ups or disagreements related to your end of life care.  He or she will help you draft a living will as well as designate a power of attorney or health care proxy.

WHAT (to decide): There are so many “what ifs” that potentially linger on the horizon that it can be truly overwhelming to try and plan for all of the possibilities.  For example, what if you don’t want to spend any time hooked up to life support and you want to be an organ donor?  In certain situations, these two priorities/goals are in direct opposition to each other.  Then what decision would you want your proxy to do?  There’s no way to account for every possible situation that may occur and trying to only results in frustration and uncertainty.

While there are specific things you should consider and leave behind instructions for, rather than focusing too narrowly on the actual situations, consider instead the larger issues.  What’s most important to you?  When do you feel life is no longer livable?  Do you want treatment even if there is no cure?  Are there any religious considerations that need to be followed?  Establishing your priorities and discussing them with your health care proxy or power of attorney can help them address unforeseeable circumstances with the confidence that they are making choices consistent with your best interest at heart.  Knowing the bigger picture will make the smaller decisions easier for everyone.  Of course, if you have any specific desires, those should be documented.  If, for example, you want to make sure music therapy is a part of any treatment program you’re in, well, make sure to highlight that as an important feature to your care.

What decisions have you decided should be spelled out explicitly?  How do you rank your priorities?

Coming soon- Life Care Plans Part Three: Deciding your “Who”

~Laura

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