Let’s Talk About End-of-Life Care
You and your family may struggle with decision-making while trying to determine the best route for end-of-life care. Advance directives are legal documents that help make end-of-life care decisions easier by helping your parent outline his or her wishes. Advance directives provide specifics about resuscitation, organ donation preferences, and care information when someone is unable to speak for him/herself.
Two key components of an advance directive are a living will and a power of attorney.
1. A living will is a written document that explains to doctors how you would like to be treated if you were ever permanently unconscious, dying, or incapacitated. It’s your opportunity to tell healthcare providers which procedures you would want and which ones you wouldn’t want. Think of a living will as your metaphorical voice.
2. A power of attorney is legal document that declares who your healthcare proxy is. Your healthcare proxy, or agent, or surrogate, is the person who makes your medical decisions when you are unable to. Ideally, your proxy is someone who knows you very well, like a family member or close friend. A power of attorney is beneficial to have when the unexpected occurs.
Advance directives are useful guides, but the real value is in discussing the choices with your family. Talk extensively with your family members about the values your parent wants to uphold and what kinds of medical support he or she will need.
Use these three tips to facilitate a conversation about end-of-life care and advance directives:
Don’t be afraid to ask your parent the difficult questions, so when the time comes, you and your family will be ready for any uncertainties.
Learn to Let Go
It can be difficult to transition from the role of the child to the caregiver. This change can feel threatening, but putting your parents’ wishes first is necessary when talking about end-of-life care.
Bringing up emotionally charged topics can be hard. Being honest about your feelings is vital. Open communication between you and your family eliminates unnecessary stress and confusion.
You may also want to talk about DMOST with your family. The Delaware Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment, or DMOST, is a portable medical document that puts you in control of your end-of-life medical care. Approach your physician about DMOST to learn how to complete the document.