Living Wills - Everyone Should Have One

Living Wills - Everyone Should Have One

An advanced care directive, commonly known as a living will is something everyone should have. A living will is a legal document that states specific directives regarding medical treatments that must be followed by caregivers or the person appointed power of attorney for health care decisions if you are unable to give informed consent. A living will ensures that your wishes are carried out.
What Does a Living Will Cover?
There are some people that think a living will is used only to direct health care providers to withhold necessary medical treatment. While many do use a living will for this type of instruction, a living will is also a way for a person to ask for all available medical techniques and treatments should they want them. Living wills are complicated because they deal with medical issues so it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor so he can clarify any treatments or techniques you are unsure of.
One thing to keep in mind is that a living will's legality does not take effect until the patient has been medically determined to be terminally ill or is in a permanent vegetative state, unable to communicate medical wishes.
The Difference between a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney
Some functions of a living will can be performed by a durable power of attorney. The document gives the attorney legal power to make any health care decision for a person who is unable to make those decisions for themselves, in some cases it also allows the durable power of attorney to use his/her own judgment. Unlike a living will, a durable power of attorney does not depend on a vegetative state or terminal illness in order to be used. A good example of someone who would be incapable of making their own sound medical decisions is someone with Alzheimer's.
If you choose not to have a living will or appoint a durable power of attorney your family members may end up fighting and arguing over what treatment you should or should not be receiving. Even though a doctor will consult with your family they still may be split in the decision-making. Since doctors only consult with family members, if you are unmarried the living will and durable power of attorney will enable them to have a say in your health care decisions.
An Attorney-In-Fact
An Attorney-in-Fact is the person you assign power of attorney. Whomever you chose as the proxy for health care decisions or attorney-in-fact needs to be someone you trust and is comfortable talking about medical issues. An assertive and diplomatic individual is the preferred choice because you are choosing someone to be your advocacy. They may need to argue with the doctors and even your family members, and in some cases, go to court and fight on your behalf. You need someone who is aware of the choices your have made and will support any and all instructions you have laid out.
More people are choosing to have a living will as it takes the pressure off family members when it comes to making important medical decisions. Medical decisions should never be made with your emotions, but unfortunately it happens too often. This is why a living will is a very important document to have.

Maria Sandella was the primary caregiver for her grandmother for 2 years until her passing. She now works as an Application Specialist for IntercomsOnline.com, which provides wireless intercom systems that caregivers use for communications with the elderly and disabled.