Should You Have a Living Will?
There are so many scenarios in late life that it’s hard to predict. You never really know what’s going to happen to your body and mind as you near the end. The best we can do is try to be prepared for all possible scenarios.
What is a living will?
A living will provides you with the opportunity to clearly state in advance what actions should be taken if your health reaches a point where you can no longer state your wishes in the present.
Many people know that if they fall into a vegetative state or encounter a brain injury that robs them of consciousness, they don’t want their life to be prolonged by medical equipment. But if your loved ones don’t know that, they won’t know what to do to carry out your wishes when the time comes.
4 Benefits of a Living Will
Many people make it to their last day of life with their minds working as normal. But many others lose their capacity to understand the world around them and make reasoned decisions, whether due to an illness or injury that causes a vegetative state or a slower process like Alzheimer’s. A living will helps you prepare in advance in case that happens.
1. It gives you the opportunity to think through and clarify what you really want.
We don’t all walk around every day thinking about death, but it’s useful to take some time when you’re still relatively healthy to sit down and work out how you feel about the situations that arise when you’re nearing death. If you’ve never really worked out what you would want to happen if you fell into a vegetative state, then stop and do that now.
It gives you a chance to make your wishes heard – even at a time when you may not be able to speak.
You should be the one that has the most power over decisions made about your health. If a time comes in the future when you can no longer articulate your feelings on those decisions, having them written out in advance means you still maintain the power over your life and death decisions.
2. It takes the weight of a difficult decision off the shoulders of family members.
Deciding to take a loved one off life support can be a decision racked with guilt and pain. If your loved ones don’t know what you want, you risk putting them in a position where they worry if they’re doing the right thing and may always live with regret in their uncertainty. A living will tells them exactly what you want so they don’t have to worry about making the right decision – it’s already made.
3. It helps your family avoid pricy, unnecessary medical procedures.
Life support can get very expensive, very fast. Your family shouldn’t be saddled with thousands of dollars worth of debt in order to keep you alive when that wasn’t your wish to begin with. Your decision can take the financial burden off their shoulders as well.
4. A living will must be honored.
A living will is an official, notarized document that must be respected. Once you’ve created one, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve made your wishes clear and they will be honored.
Sitting down to think about death and all the unpleasant things that may occur as you approach it is obviously nobody’s idea of a fun afternoon, but getting it done means you can avoid further complications and difficulties for your loved ones down the line.
For help making your living will, contact an elder law attorney near you.