April 16th kicks off National Healthcare Decision week. Now is the time to commit to yourself and your loved ones that you will have that difficult conversation about medical interventions you want and don’t want when you are unable to make decisions on your own. Perhaps because you are at the end stages of a terminal illness. Maybe you are in a coma following an accident and likely to recover.
Through your Health Care Power of Attorney, you designate someone to make decisions when you are unable to do so. But your agent needs your guidance. Having a conversation will give your agent peace of mind when tough decisions need to be made.
We always recommend having a discussion about general desires and some specific situations that could arise. We also know it is a tough conversation. But it is a meaningful conversation. Additionally you will learn a lot about yourself. You will also walk away from the conversation with a deeper bond with your loved ones.
Here are a few questions to begin the discussion:
- Would you want your health care agent to take into account the effect (financial, emotional) your treatment has on family?
- Do you have a strong preference to die at home if it is at all possible?
- If you could plan it today, what would the last day or week of your life be like? Where would you be? Who would be present? What would you be doing? What would you eat if you could eat? How about your final words or last acts?
- Are there medical treatments you fear? Does it relate to the possibility of pain? Loss of dignity while undergoing the treatment? Being alone? Being overly-sedated or in a lingering state of unconsciousness?
- Imagine that you have Alzheimer’s disease and it progressed to the point where you cannot recognize or converse with your loved ones. When spoon-feeding is no longer possible, would you want to be fed by a feeding tube? So would you want other life-sustaining treatments that might prolong your life? For how long?
- Imagine you are seriously ill, doctors are recommending a course of treatment that usually has very severe side effects, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, and weakness that could last for months. Would your willingness to endure the side effects depend on the likelihood of regaining your health? What if there is a 1% chance? 20%? 50%? 75%? Does your answer change if you are likely to regain your health for only another 6 months to a year?
- If you were near the end stages of a terminal illness with a condition that caused much pain, would you want to be sedated, even to the point of unconsciousness? Or would you want to be awake to be with your loved ones even if it meant experiencing a significant amount of pain?
- Imagine you have dementia causing confusion. So only half the time, you recognize and interact with friends and loved ones on a simple level. You also have circulatory problems, which resulted in one leg being amputated because it developed gangrene. Now, the other leg develops gangrene and the doctor recommends amputation because the condition could be fatal. So would you want the operation?
Have the conversation.
Rebecca Mason and her team are extremely professional – a true pleasure to work with. They ask questions you haven’t thought of and are proactive and thoughtful in their approach to helping you get your plan finalized.Kimberly K. – Customer Satisfaction Survey – 4/2019
Share your views so that your loved ones and your medical team will know what care and services you prefer, and what treatment you would refuse, in the event that you are unable to communicate your wishes.
National Healthcare Decisions Week Resources:
Wisbar – Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16: Download End-of-Life Planning Guide and Start That Conversation:
Wisconsin Medical Society:
Rebecca Mason Blog: Estate Planning: a Gift for your loved ones