Many of us may have already experienced one of the top reasons why living wills are important. We have watched our own parents’ health deteriorate and faced making agonizing decisions about their treatment.
Making decisions for loved ones with a terminal illness without knowing what they want is tough. Unless we’ve had a previous conversation with them or they’ve written down what they want, we’re left in a difficult position.
And that’s particularly painful when there are other siblings and we’re not agreeing.
Then there’s the guilt that keeps eating at us regardless of what we decided. Should we have done something differently? Is the quality of their life going to diminish because of our decision?
What if someone is comatose and the likelihood of a full recovery is slim? Would you keep them on a respirator and feeding tube indefinitely? What if someone’s heart stops beating? Would you allow the medical staff to resuscitate?
Modern technological advances can keep people alive many years after their bodies no longer work properly. What if their brains are no longer functioning either? Do we want to keep them alive anyway?
If you’ve ever had to deal with anything like this, do you want to put the same burden on your own children or siblings?
As Baby Boomers, in charge and control no matter what, we’re the ones who ought to be leading the brigade for everyone having a living will. We know how important it is to be the designer of our own lives.
When we have a living will, all decisions are ours. No one else has to make the hard choices about life support and resuscitation. We get to specify the type of treatment we want or don’t want and under what conditions we want or don’t want the treatment.
And attending physicians have to abide by what we've specified. If they don't want to, they have to find a doctor who will.
A living will goes into effect only when we are no longer able to make decisions or communicate our wishes.
These documents are sometimes also called Advanced Health Care Directives but they’re not always exactly the same. An Advanced Health Care Directive allows us to name someone to make any medical decisions for us if we’re incapable for any reason to do so. It’s a good idea to do that for a couple of reasons.
We likely can’t think of everything that could possibly come up when we’re spelling out our wishes and having someone specifically designated would ease that burden. That person can also make decisions for you after death if it’s stipulated, like organ donations, burial arrangements, etc.
The main consideration is to make sure the person we name is mature and responsible enough to make those tough decisions and that it’s someone we trust will have our best interests at heart.
Those of us with elderly parents or other loved ones should encourage them today to create a living will if they don’t already have one. And we should do the same for our own peace of mind as well as those future caregivers.