You probably already know that estate plans protect your family and assets after you are gone. However, they can also benefit you while you are alive and in need of medical care for a terminal condition or serious injury.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a living will provides legally binding instructions on the type of care you wish to receive. They are crucial for people of all ages who are unable to communicate their wishes directly to medical staff. They can also ease the burden on family by preventing them from making major decisions on your health.
What is in a living will?
Living wills can contain directives on many medical treatments, including:
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
CPR restarts a person’s heart using a device that provides an electrical shock. You can specify that you do not want CPR in the event of a medical emergency.
Palliative care involves the administration of medications and therapies to ease pain, but not to prolong life.
Mechanical ventilation involves using a machine that breathes for you. In addition to specifying whether you wish to receive assistance breathing, you can also specify how long you wish to receive it.
Tube feeding provides sustenance when you are unable to eat and drink on your own. Like ventilation, you can specify a length of time.
What is a power of attorney?
In addition to a legal document, you can also name a representative to communicate your wishes and ensure your medical team carries them out. This is a power of attorney, and by giving another person power of attorney, you enable them to make medical decisions for you when you cannot.
As your advocate, the person you choose must act in your best interests. This involves communicating wishes to family members and medical staff. Spouses, family members, and even trusted friends can all serve as your representative. However, you cannot name a person who provides you medical care. In many cases, you must choose a person who is at least 18 years of age.
While no one wants to think about their own mortality, having a living will in place is a must. Do not let the fact that you are young and in good health deter you, as medical emergencies can happen to people of all ages.