Senior Care Focus

Be Prepared and Plan Ahead for Important Health Care Decisions

You think you are organized? You think you are prepared? Do you think your parents are organized? Do you think your parents are prepared? Prepared and organized for what you ask? For future events beyond your control, when your elderly parent becomes ill, there will be important health care decisions that inevitably will have to be made. The best way to avoid a problem is to prepare for it.

You have car insurance for an accident. You have home owner’s insurance if your home burns down; life insurance for your death; and a will for your estate upon your death. However, most frequently overlooked is an Advanced Health Care Directive and/or Living Will. These legal documents set forth your instructions on what health care you do and do not want if you become critically ill or unable to make or express your decisions.

An Advanced Health Care Directive not only sets forth your wishes, if you cannot express yourself with regard to your health care; it also names the person, called a health care proxy, who will make and/or carry out medical decisions on your behalf.

A Living Will only states your desires regarding life sustaining treatment if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. An Advanced Health Care Directive has a broader scope of directions. The only way to ensure that your wishes, in terms of health care, are carried out is through your Advanced Health Care Directive and/or a Living Will.

Additionally, if you have an Advanced Health Care Directive, which names a health care proxy, and you are stricken with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, your health care proxy can make medical decisions for you. If you do not have a Directive, then your loved ones will have to apply to a Court to have a guardian appointed. Only after a guardian is appointed, can a family member make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so yourself. The guardianship process can be lengthy and costly.

So, to avoid these problems be prepared. While you are healthy have an attorney draft your Advanced Health Care Directive or Living Will setting forth your choices and determinations. Do not leave it to chance that your health care providers will give you only the care you want and do not take extraordinary means to preserve your life, which you do not want taken. Do not leave your family members in a situation where they will have to apply to a court before they can implement what they know you do and do not want in terms of health care. All this pain can be avoided by preparing a Living Will/Advanced Directive NOW.


Adapted from an article by Dennis J. Alessi.
Senior Care Focus (Long-term Care Focus), Issue No. 2, Spring/Summer 2009

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