I’m sure that no one wants to read today’s article, but I’m hoping you will.
This is not an “older person” article. It’s also not a “pandemic” article. It’s also not about having a will – although that’s a good idea. It’s not meant to cause alarm or panic. But if there was ever a time to say to ourselves, “If I got sick, do my family and friends know my health care wishes?” now would be that time.
I’m saying this a bit tongue in cheek, but when Buzzfeed…you know, Buzzfeed as the source for all of those cutesy quizzes that fill our Facebook page…when Buzzfeed publishes an article titled “The Four Legal Documents that Everyone Needs to Plan for Their Future”, then pay attention. I don’t want to give the whole article away, but here are three of the documents they mention:
A living will is a written statement detailing how you would like your medical and health care treatment to be handled in the event that you’re unable to express it yourself.
A healthcare proxy is a document that says who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf, when you’re not able to do so.
A power of attorney is a written authorization for someone to represent you or act on your behalf when it comes to business or financial affairs.
As you can see, these documents are very inter-related. It might take some time to figure out how you would like your health care treatment handled and who you would like to be your spokesperson. You also have to figure out if the person making the decisions about your medical treatments should be your power of attorney. And then of course, there’s the decision of backups in case your first choice isn’t willing or able to take on this responsibility.
The point being, the process of putting these documents in place takes time. It’s also recommended to have an attorney create these documents for you, so you have to budget for that. The ideal time to do all of this is when you’re not under the pressure of having to do it. This requires careful consideration.
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my father-in-law was the ultimate planner when it came to his health care and final wishes. He talked to us for years about it. When his health started to decline, we all knew his wishes and there were no questions. There were no squabbles amongst family members about decisions. Everyone was focused on the same things.
As a result of COVID-19, I have a few friends who have already begun conversations with their children about their medical wishes should they become ill. I realize that no one wants to do this. But it can be a big relief to everyone to have these health care conversations and draw up these documents so there’s no confusion about what to do and who will be in charge of decision making.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Gainesville, FL