A Living Will is a legal document. It is also referred to as “Advance Health Care Directive”. It is basically an official statement, signed by you, that explains the decisions you would like made about your health care in the event you are unable to communicate them yourself at the relevant time. You can enlist legal help to craft yours, but you certainly don’t have to.
The legal specifications for the document differ state by state, but all states have an official format required for the document to be legal for their residents. Once you have this document prepared, you’ll want your family and loved ones to have a copy, as well as your doctor(s).
Leaving a detailed plan in place through your living will has many benefits – it ensures you receive the care you want, and also prevents your loved ones from having the hard task of deciding (or agreeing) on the care specifics you would have chosen for yourself.
Learn more about living wills.
- Caring Connections: Information on living wills (specifically here with particular details by state), grief, and hospice. http://www.caringinfo.org
Prepare your own living will, sign it, and get copies to your family/loved ones and doctors.
- Five Wishes: One available living will form you can purchase ($1-$5), that meets legal requirements but is also written in everyday language, to help start and structure important conversations about care in times of serious illness. It addresses all a person’s concerns, not just the medical and legal ones, including matters of comfort, dignity, pain management, personal and spiritual issues, family reconciliation and memorials. http://www.agingwithdignity.org/five-wishes.php
Finally, talk to your family/loved ones about your wishes, and ask them about theirs. It’s not the most fun conversation, to be sure, but it’s important to do BEFORE you need it. Once you have this talk, you’ll feel more peace from knowing your loved ones would be able to step in and direct your care how you would want it, and also knowing you could make the choices for them that they would want.