Do I Need a Living Will?

On top of the day-to-day challenges of caregiving, there are several documents that are important to have completed and signed. Ideally, you will have created these and had them signed (and notarized when necessary) well prior to needing them.

One of these documents is a Living Will, although different states may call it something else. Always check with your state or municipality for the particular requirements.

For example, you may hear “advance directive” and “living will” referred to as the same thing; they are not. AssistGuide Information Services, citing the National Institute on Aging, notes that “Advance directives are oral and written instructions about future medical care should your parent become unable to make decisions (for example, unconscious or too ill to communicate). Each State regulates the use of advance directives differently. A living will is one type of advance directive. It takes effect when the patient is terminally ill.”

What is a Living Will?

Jay Kaplan, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, explains that “A living will expresses your own health care wishes in written form if you were unable to verbally do so yourself.” Generally speaking, you want to have a living will so that if something happens and you end up on life support, the doctors will know whether you want them to do everything possible to keep you alive, or if they should let you go.

Note that we said “you should have…” above. That was on purpose. First, the person you’re taking care of should absolutely have one, but what about you? Dawne remembers when her mother had her first brush with a serious illness. Luckily, her mother had a living will. But when they discussed it with the attorney, he said, “So, I went to file this with your papers and…um…neither of you have a living will! What are you thinking?”

Imagine this, for a moment. Remember when Kim’s dad was shooting planes from the sky? How do you think the “living will” conversation would have gone with her father if they’d had to have it while he was busy being an enemy combatant? This is why it’s so important to have this document in place while you – and your loved ones – are still healthy and able to have these discussions/make these decisions.

But I hate talking, or even thinking, about this!

Yeah, we know. This is often an uncomfortable topic, which is part of the reason why only about a third of Americans have a living will, according to NPR. But regardless of how uncomfortable this is, it’s much more uncomfortable to be in an emergency situation and not have a living will.

Think of it this way – really, it’s selfish to leave your loved ones struggling to figure out what you would have wanted. We highly recommend engaging an attorney to create your living will. And we highly recommend doing it as soon as possible! The peace of mind is priceless, for everyone concerned.

Stay tuned; in future posts, we’ll cover other important documents, including:

  1. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)
  2. POA (Power of Attorney)
  3. Advance Directive

What about you? Do you/your loved ones have a living will in place? Let us know in the comments, or head on over to our Facebook group if you’d like to discuss it there.♠

 

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