Plotting Your Own Course

Life, it seems, is full of tough discussions. Throughout the years we are faced with topics that make us fidget, make our toes curl and our palms clammy. Religion, the birds and the bees, politics, money and personal hygiene habits spark those awkward conversations we probably feel we would rather go without. But sometimes when we grin and bear it through those talks, the outcome can be very satisfying and comforting.

As a funeral counselor, I have difficult conversations with grieving families almost every day. They often serve as daily reminders of the benefits of discussing Advanced Directives with your loved ones. In the event of a serious illness or injury, there are usually dozens of crucial, split-second decisions to be made. Decisions your family and healthcare professionals may someday have to make for you.

By establishing your Advanced Directives now, either in the form of a Living Will or by assigning Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare to a loved one, you can be sure that your wishes are made clear. There will be no ambiguity in a time of need.

A Living Will records your specific healthcare preferences and must be notarized at the time of signing. It provides you with the opportunity to make informed decisions about your healthcare and quality of life when you have the time to weigh all of your options. Before establishing these wishes, you must discuss your options with a physician so that you fully understand the treatments available to you. This will also ensure your directives are as clear and comprehensive as possible.

The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to designate someone you trust to speak for you if your decision-making capacity is impaired. This person must be at least 18 years old and can be a family member or a friend. It is important to have a lengthy discussion about your preferences with the person you designate, before signing a legal document.

I’m sure we can all see the value in establishing our Advanced Directives. While it may be an uncomfortable subject matter, taking the time to discuss your options and choices with your loved ones and healthcare providers will help you maintain control over your own health. It has been shown that patients are three times more likely to establish their Advanced Directives after a simple discussion. For more information on Advanced Directives, talk to your primary care physician, visit your local hospital or consult your legal counsel.