Identifying End-of-Life Wishes for Aging Loved Ones
by Candy Arrington
Several weeks ago, I spent a long day in the emergency department of our local hospital with my 95-year-old aunt. When the decision was finally made to admit her, a doctor, wearing two masks and a face shield, stood over my aunt and screamed questions at her. Among the questions: If your heart stops, do you want us to use extreme measures to restart it? My aunt looked to me for help. Thankfully, I was able to tell the doctor legal documents regarding her wishes were already in place.
Advance directives are legal documents that clearly state a person’s medical care wishes. A living will details the extent of care desired if a person is unconscious or too ill to make decisions. It may also include instructions on the use of various types of life support and whether to resuscitate if breathing and heart stop. A healthcare power of attorney or healthcare proxy names someone to make healthcare decisions for a person who is unable.
Allowing aging loved ones to make decisions before care is needed relieves adult children, or other family members, of the responsibility of making hard choices at a time when emotions are high, and all involved may fail to agree.
Types of advance directives vary, so enlist the help of an attorney to explain and draw up the necessary documents. Then keep advance directives in a safe but convenient location and consider placing a copy on file with the hospital system.
Some view advance funeral planning as morbid, but it’s the best way to ensure preferences are honored. Decisions are many and include: burial or cremation, casket type, viewing of the body and visitation, type and location of funeral service, who will officiate, music selection, obituary, flowers or donations, and type of gravestone or marker.
Wills and Other Important Documents
A Last Will and Testament defines the distribution of assets after a person’s death and names someone to manage the estate until it is finalized.
When there isn’t a will, or it hasn’t been updated, conflict can occur, which delays settling the estate. A poorly written will, one that doesn’t give a personal representative the authority to sell property or disburse funds, is like not having a will at all.
An itemized list of the objects and the intended recipients, kept with the will, avoids arguments about possessions. Another option is to suggest possessions that are not in everyday use be given to the recipient now, along with any history associated with them.
In addition to wills, ask your loved one the location of birth certificates, VA benefit information, bank accounts, investment information, titles to property, and life insurance policies.
In taking time to talk about end-of-life wishes now, you honor aging loved ones and avoid difficult decisions and conflict later.
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, and speaker. Her writing often focuses on tough topics and practical methods for moving through difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles and devotionals and authored three books, including When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House). Visit Candy’s website https://candyarrington.com, follow on Twitter @CandyArrington, and LinkedIn.