Planning for your wishes at life’s end includes documenting healthcare decisions, who you want to make those decisions, and what you want to happen after life’s end. One of the most important decisions is selecting a durable power of attorney, otherwise known as a healthcare agent.
When choosing your healthcare agent, choose someone who:
- Knows you well
- You trust
- Respects your views and values
- Is able to make difficult decisions under stress
- Will honor your wishes even if they are different from their own
Talk to this person before you list them as your healthcare agent. Once they agree to be your agent, talk to them about your views, values and wishes for end-of-life medical care, as well as what your wishes are after your death. If you do not talk to your agent about your wishes, they may not be understood or followed. When your advance directive is complete, give a copy to your agent and your healthcare provider.
Once you have talked to your agent(s), it is time to complete your advance healthcare directive. An advance directive provides a way for you to name a healthcare agent and allows you to make your healthcare wishes known. It gives your healthcare agent the authority to make your decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself. It does not give your health care agent any authority to make your financial or other business decisions, nor does it make them financially responsible for your health care, unless they are your legal spouse.
Decisions included in the directive:
- Selecting your healthcare agent
- Instructions regarding the ability of your healthcare agent to decide whether to have feeding tubes withheld or withdrawn from you
- Instructions regarding life-prolonging treatments
- Instructions regarding Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
- Instructions regarding pain and comfort
- Instructions regarding organ and tissue donation
- Funeral or final arrangements
Take time to think about your views, values, and wishes. Think about the things on your bucket list, and what a good day looks like to you. Do these things alter your wishes in any way?
Some questions to ask:
- Where do you want (or not want) to receive care? (home, nursing facility, or hospital)
- Are there kinds of treatment you would want or not want? (resuscitation if your heart stops, intubation and/or ventilation, and artificial nutrition or hydration)
- Would you like to have a funeral or celebration of life after you die? If yes, what kinds of things are important to you for this gathering?
- Do you or do you not wish to donate your organs or tissues after you die?
- What do you want to be done with your body following death?