Many of us find the topic of death and dying hard to talk about, or even approach, with our loved ones. Yet, in the event of an emergency situation, you may be faced with several decisions that are best handled after having given them considerable thought and attention in advance. You and (adult) members of your family should discuss everyone’s wishes, and see that these are documented in the event that you can’t speak for yourself.
Advanced Directives and Living Wills are legal documents that describe the medical treatments or decisions that you would prefer under exceptional circumstances when you can’t speak for yourself. To create a document of “advanced directives,” you should consider these questions:
Finally, you should think about the following questions and document your answers:
- Are there situations that you would consider worse than death?
- What if you could no longer recognize or interact with friends or family?
- What if you required some apparatus, like a breathing machine or feeding tube, to keep you alive?
- Are there any religious or spiritual matters to consider should you be unable to represent yourself in decision-making?
Depending on your answer to some of these “quality of life issues,” you may want to request a “Do not resuscitate” order - or DNR. This means that if your heart stops, or you stop breathing, emergency medical staff or hospital staff will not attempt to revive you using CPR.
Advanced directives and living wills are legal documents and the laws vary state to state. Your doctor may have a form to use in your state, or you can contact your local health department. There are also forms available online and for sale in software packages. However your documents are created, they should be properly witnessed and notarized for your protection.
Remember, these documents should be revisited over time to make sure they still reflect your feelings accurately.