February 2016 | Wesley Hospice

Planning Ahead/Advance Directives

By thinking ahead and communicating medical treatment preferences early on, your loved ones can prevent the anxiety of having to guess your wishes by some simple steps in planning ahead. More importantly, he or she will have the opportunity to make very personal health care decisions for themselves. So what is an advance directive? An advance directive is a written statement of your wishes, preferences and choices regarding end-of-life medical decisions.

To record medical preferences, your loved one will need to complete an advance directive in writing. There are two types of advance directives, and it is imperative to have both:

  1. Living Will: A living will is a legal document that illustrates what types of medical treatment a person wants at the end of life in the event they are unable to speak for themselves. It also informs medical professionals of an individual’s wish regarding specific decisions, such as whether to accept mechanical ventilation.
  2. Medical Power of Attorney (POA): A POA is a legal document that designates whom the patient has elected to make decisions regarding their medical care. The appointed health care agent (also called health care proxy, health care surrogate, or durable power of attorney for health care) is authorized to speak ONLY if the patient is unable to make their own medical decisions. This individual becomes the patient’s spokesperson and advocate on a range of medical matters. A durable power of attorney for health care differs from a regular durable power of attorney, which typically handles financial matters.

Many states combine the two forms into one document, which can be used to record one’s treatment preferences and name a health care advocate. The person appointed should know the person well and be willing to carry out the directions regardless of personal feelings. Two people must witness the signing of your advance directive form. A witness cannot be anyone who:

  • Is related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption
  • Is entitled to any portion of your estate
  • Has a claim against any portion of your estate
  • Has direct financial responsibility for your medical care
  • Has a controlling interest or is an employee of a residential facility in which you reside

If you are a resident of a long-term health center, one of the witnesses must be designated as a patient advocate or ombudsperson by the Department of Health and Social Services. An advance directive does not require an attorney and are free of charge for families.

Do you have a Bucket List?

Do you have a wish list or, as they are called today, a bucket list? I call mine a “bucket list” and I’ve crossed only a few things off that list assuming I have plenty of time left to complete or, at least, come close to completing it. Last Tuesday, one of my daughter’s childhood friends passed away at the age of 30 from natural causes, and I realized how precious time could be. He told the group of friends that he was not feeling well, went to the restroom and suffered a seizure. News of his death made moving forward with my bucket list a priority.

Everyone has a bucket list, even if it is just milling about in your head. When it comes to putting it on paper, people wonder where to start, so I thought I’d help you out by offering a little direction to get your list started.

  • Be prepared. Invest in a notepad or a journal specifically for this purpose. Having a hard copy of your bucket list is vital. Not only will it help you remember everything you want to accomplish, but will keep your list in an easily accessible and coherent place. It will also keep you prepared for when ideas strike you on a whim at the most inconvenient time.
  • Plan your list. No one ever has a complete pre-made bucket list in their head, and sitting down to think about everything you want to do in life sounds extremely daunting. The majority of tasks found on bucket lists come from the person seeing something and thinking “I want to learn to do that!” Look for ideas everywhere.
  • Write your first draft. There’s no time like the present. The sooner you have some sort of list as a guideline, the sooner you can take the first step to completing the task on that list. This is the time to be creative and completely let go of your fears and limits. Write down anything that comes to mind.
  • Refine your list. Now that you have a basis to start from, it is time to get rid of the more impossible or improbable tasks. Be practical, and seriously consider the task completely before erasing. This is the most tricky; while you need to get rid of a task you know won’t be completed, this is a list of self-development, and erasing tasks for the reason you don’t have the courage, the willpower, or the time will leave you with a poor list with few obstacles or accomplishments.

Be on the constant lookout for new ideas. Get into a habit of looking and finding new ideas everywhere, from TV and movies, to posters and flyers for events, and by talking with your friends and family. Never give yourself limits, and remember, it is important to complete tasks, as well as add new ones. It is never too late to start a bucket list. Live life to the fullest.