End of Life Decisions

Nothing can tear a family apart more than the decisions that must be made while caring for a family member during a prolonged illness, or when planning for the burial of a family member. Most of us have heard the horror stories or experienced the negative results of decisions made by members of the family.

The most caring thing you can do for your family is to plan for these life-changing events before they happen by periodically talking with and letting them know what your wishes are. These discussions may feel very uncomfortable but are very necessary.

Before you begin your discussions, it is important that you have a clear understanding of the documents that you will need to make sure your wishes are carried out. Six of these documents will be discussed in this article.

Everyone should have a DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY for HEALTHCARE. This form can be obtained from your healthcare institution and should be kept on file at the place where you receive care. It should spell out what type of care you want under certain conditions, and who you have authorized to make decisions about your care if you are unable to make your wishes known.

A HIPPA REALEASE FORM (Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects your privacy and directs the caregiving institution regarding with whom they can discuss your condition and care.

A LIVING WILL explains what type of lifesaving procedures you do or do not want performed.

A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY for FINANCIAL informs financial institutions who is authorized to act on your behalf pertaining to financial matters.

A WILL is a legal document that leaves instructions about how your possessions (house, car, jewelry, money) should be distributed.

A DISPOSITON OF BODY outlines what is to be done with your body after death (burial, cremation, donated to science.)

All of these forms can be changed at any time and should be reviewed and discussed periodically with those involved.

A person having a health crisis or who is nearing the end of their life who has planned ahead of time saves the people who care for them the emotional burden of having to decide what that person would have wanted them to do. It will also hopefully prevent any misunderstandings among family and friends.

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