Did you know close to 40 million Americans serve as family caregivers today? Oftentimes, these individuals assume informal roles, assisting with daily activities on top of personal responsibilities.
If you’re one of the many Americans providing informal care for an aging loved one, it’s likely you have some questions. Many times, family caregivers wonder about end-of-life planning, or question who may be responsible for healthcare-related decisions.
Below, we detail an advance directive, one of the very first steps in end-of-life planning to help address any healthcare questions should a loved one not be able to make decisions on his or her own.
What’s an advance directive?
One of the steps in end-of-life planning is filling out or writing an advanced directive.
An advance directive is a legal document in which a person specifies comprehensive guidance for end-of-life care. In this document, a healthcare power of attorney is identified, which is the individual responsible for making authorized healthcare decisions based on the instructions outlined in the advance directive document. A living will can also supplement an advance directive, outlining basic information about properties and assets.
While it’s never too early to fill out an advance directive, the National Institute on Aging suggests thinking of it as a living, breathing document—one that can change over time.
For help, follow along below for a step-by-step guide to filling out an advance directive for a loved one.
1. Have your loved one appoint a healthcare power of attorney.
Before filling out an advance directive, have your loved one appoint a healthcare power of attorney. If you serve as your loved one’s primary caregiver, it’s likely he or she will name you as their agent, but its better to ask than assume this role.
If named, it’s your responsibility to communicate his or her healthcare wishes. Do you feel comfortable and confident about the type of care your loved one wishes to receive? These are important conversations to have before your loved one appoints a healthcare power of attorney.
2. Have your loved one outline end-of-life care guidance.
Once the agent has been appointed, you’ll need to talk to your loved one about his or her healthcare wishes. While difficult to discuss, it’s important to have conversations about end-of-life planning before an accident occurs. Some questions to consider include:
- Do you want medical personnel to administer life-sustaining treatment, including artificially or technologically supplied nutrition and/or hydration?
- Do you want to donate your organs, tissues and other human body parts to science, medicine and education?
- Do you want to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR to restart breathing?
As the healthcare agent, you’re entrusted with honoring your loved one’s healthcare wishes. Asking these questions will allow you to adequately communicate with healthcare personnel on behalf of your loved one.
3. Have your loved one initial the advance directive with family present.
Filling out an advance directive is an emotional task. As you sit down to sign the documents with your loved one, have close friends and family members present.
With every decision, reassure your loved one that they’re not alone. If possible, invite your loved one’s doctors and physicians to sit in the conversation. They can address your concerns, and answer any questions regarding legal and medical matters.
Note your loved one can change or cancel their directive at any time. Simply fill out a new form and notify witnesses.
If your loved one’s health is quickly declining, don’t wait to discuss advance directives. Having a plan in place can give caregivers peace of mind, knowing they’re doing everything in their power to give their loved one the care he or she wants.
Preplan to Save Time, Money and Worry
Once advance directives are in place, take your end-of-life planning another step by discussing the benefits of preplanning final arrangements. When you preplan, arrangements are paid for and lock in at today’s prices. This gives families peace of mind, as they don’t have to worry about sudden financial burdens and stressful decisions. Instead, they can rest assured knowing everything detail is accounted for. For more information about preplanning, download our free resource, the Seniors' Guide to Funeral Arrangements.
Editor's note: This blog post is not a comprehensive guide to advance directives and should not be treated as legal advice or legal recommendation. If you have questions about advance directives as it pertains to your specific circumstances, consult an attorney.
Image credit: Pixabay