None of us likes to think there will ever be a time when we won’t be able to make decisions for ourselves, but advance planning will make it much easier if that time does come.
Just think about it for a moment. If you were to become seriously ill or injured, would your family or friends know your healthcare wishes or how to pay your bills? Sharing your preferences and making arrangements now ensures that your loved ones and caregivers have a guide for your future.
Take these steps to be sure you are prepared:
Start discussions early
Consider whom you would trust to make legal and healthcare decisions for you if you were unable to do so for yourself—and what you would want him or her to do. Make sure to discuss your preferences with your loved ones. It’s especially important to share your healthcare and end-of-life wishes.
“Talking about your wishes now while everyone can still help make decisions will give your loved ones the confidence they need to make important medical decisions in the event you’re not able to make them for yourself,” McLean Home Care & Hospice Administrator Peggy Coburn says. She notes that McLean encourages families to utilize The Conversation Project, a national initiative created to encourage people to talk with their families and their healthcare providers about their wishes for care if they become seriously ill.
Create an advance directive
Once you come up with a plan, communicate your healthcare and end-of-life wishes to your family and healthcare providers through a written advance directive. According to the National Institute on Aging, people who document their preferences in this way are more likely to get the care they prefer at the end of life than people who do not.
An advance directive includes a living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare. A living will is a written document that explains what medical treatment you want if you cannot make your own decisions in an emergency. A medical power of attorney is a legal document in which you appoint a trusted individual as your proxy to make healthcare decisions for you.
Make copies of your advance directive, and ask each of your healthcare providers to put a copy in your medical files. You can update this document at any time if your preferences or situation changes.
Put important papers in one place
Gather all of your personal and financial records and copies of legal documents in one place, or list the location of papers in a notebook. If you have a safe deposit box at a bank, make sure to note the location of the box and key. The individuals who will act on your behalf should know where all records and documents are stored.
Be sure to update documents as your circumstances change.
Make a list of the doctors and financial organizations that you use, and give them written permission in advance to speak directly with a caregiver if needed. If questions arise about your care or a health insurance claim, for instance, your caregiver may not be able to get information without your prior consent.
The key is to start planning sooner rather than later. Every step you take now increases peace of mind for you and those you love in the future.