For most of us, end-of-life decisions — those issues relating to medical care and advanced directives to doctors and health care providers — are among the most difficult to discuss. They carry their intimations of illness and mortality like so much excess baggage, and they grow heavier as we age. In addition, they bring with them religious beliefs and moral considerations that are deeply personal, and these can result in conflict between spouses, parents, children and siblings. That’s a shame, because this kind of discord can be easily prevented.
There is a particular, state-specific legal document that allows each of us to convey to our family and physicians our wishes when confronted with a serious illness. This document, often called a living will, is frequently paired with another document, a health care power-of-attorney, which appoints another person as your agent and permits them to make important medical decisions if you are not able. It may be used in a variety of medical situations, and is certainly not limited to end-of-life situations. The living will, however, addresses issues more specific to life support and extraordinary efforts to revive.
- Help your wishes come true: “Five Wishes” can be ordered online at www.agingwithdignity.org. The cost is $5, which can be reduced for larger orders.
Aging with Dignity, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Tallahassee Fla., also offers a unique solution that may help many South Carolinians. Aging With Dignity was founded in 1996 with initial support from The Claude Pepper Foundation, The
Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The following year they developed and made available a document called “Five Wishes,” which they characterize as “a living will with a heart and soul.” This document meets the legal requirements for an advanced directive in 42 states, including South Carolina, and is available in multiple translations, bi-lingual
versions and Braille.
“Five Wishes” includes provisions covering both a living will and health care power-of-attorney, as you would expect, but it also has a third section. This section lists many decisions and requests that involve non-medical issues, but are certainly part of the concerns of a seriously ill patient. These requests, which outline, among other things, quality of care and day-to-day comfort concerns for the patient, are designed to allow an individual patient a greater feeling of control.
Steven Weber is the senior investment advisor and Gloria Harris Director of Client Services for The Bedminster Group. The information contained herein was obtained from sources considered reliable. Their accuracy cannot be guaranteed.