It can be hard to contemplate your final hours, but most people have some idea of what they do and do not want to happen when their end draws near.
Among the things that you should have in place is a durable power of attorney (POA) for health care. This is a legal arrangement that invests someone of your choosing with the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to direct your own care.
8 things you need to talk about
You and your health care POA need to be on the same page about your wishes, so here are a few things you need to discuss:
- What is your overall attitude toward life and death and how should that inform the choices made about your medical care?
- How do you feel about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops beating? Do you wish to have a “Do Not Resuscitate” order in place?
- If you’re unable to breath on your own, under what circumstances would you want a ventilator (artificial respiration)?
- If you’re unable to swallow, under what circumstances would you want a feeding tube? Is there any situation in which you would want food withheld?
- If your kidneys cease functioning, are there any situations under which you do or do not want dialysis?
- If your condition is ultimately terminal, do you want antibiotics or any other treatments that could potentially prolong your life?
- Under what circumstances would you wish to receive palliative care only, which focuses on comfort care rather than treatment?
- Do you wish to be an organ donor? If you do, are there any limitations you want placed?
You should also talk with your POA about whether or not you anticipate trouble with any members of your family over your decisions. While conflicts cannot always be foreseen, people often know if their wishes run contrary to their loved one’s religious or cultural expectations, and giving your POA advance warning can help them prepare.
Effective estate plans aren’t just about what happens after you’re gone. They can also help you to ensure that your end-of-life concerns will also be addressed according to your unique needs and preferences.