“Advance care planning takes place over a lifetime. It changes as one’s goals and priorities in life change through different stages of life and health conditions,” asserts new guidelines on living wills from the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging.
There are typically four stages of life that should necessitate changing a living will, says Forbes in its recent article, “Living Wills Stressed For Adults Of All Ages.”
While healthy young adults are right to believe that their chances of dying soon are pretty low, many in that age range have accidents leading to temporary or permanent impairments. In those cases, having someone named ahead of time to know and follow their medical wishes is a huge plus.
Living will planning also needs to be modified significantly for those who experience severe health threatening illnesses. Another time for living will adjustments comes when people are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Their living wills should have directions on what life support they want and what care they would like when in hospice.
When creating a living will, you need to find someone you feel comfortable talking to, who will know and carry out your wishes for end-of-life care as a proxy.
Many people turn to their spouse for the role, but usually a husband may not want to go through the trauma of extended end-of-life care. However, his wife may believe everything should be done to save him, for as long as humanly possible. A word of advice: don’t appoint a person as a proxy, who’s so opinionated she could let her own thinking take precedence over the patient’s wishes.
A person’s directions for end-of-life care need to be considered after discussions with your doctor, your family and your attorney.
A big issue with living wills is it’s frequently impossible for medical professionals and people with power of attorney to find that they exist (and then find them), when they’re needed for health care decision making in an emergency situation. To solve this problem, some states have created registries, some with smart phone apps that can give doctors and attorneys access to a living will to implement it.
When thinking about creating living wills, discuss with our attorneys whether you’re willing to bear through the difficult situations that can occur near a loved one’s time of death.