Regardless of your age and health, knowing and sharing your end-of-life wishes is essential for just about everyone. None of us have the power to know when we will reach our end, so the best way to ensure that your needs are met in critical situations is to be proactive. Here are three simple ways to make sure that you prepare properly.
1. Think It Through
Your very first step in preparing an end of life plan is to know your own wishes. Many of us explore these ideas vaguely when coming into contact with them through film, news stories or the experiences of friends, but few of us give it serious thought without serious provocation. Set aside some time to dig deep and think about your personal beliefs and strongly-held values; consider your family, your religion and your where your priorities lie. You may also find it worthwhile to do some research—it is likely that you will discover a great deal of variety in what you can and cannot opt to do in various situations.
2. Discuss and then Discuss Again
Don’t wait until serious illness or accidents to address end of life matters. Tell your loved ones clearly what you would like done in various situations; address who will speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself, when you would and would not wish to be resuscitated, what measures you would want taken to sustain you. What’s more, this should not be a conversation that happens once and is then relegated to the back of your mind. Revisit these topics periodically. Understand that technology changes, medicine changes and so do you; as you learn more about yourself and those closest to you, your wishes may change.
3. Write Your Wishes Down
Whenever you visit your primary care provider, you can ask to fill out a health care proxy; this simple form gives permission for someone you trust to speak for you when you are unable to do so. You can also find the form online and then share it with every physician that you frequently visit. Make sure that your spouse or adult children are aware of and comfortable with who you’ve indicated as your health care proxy; also consider asking them to fill out this form for themselves as well. If you would like a more in-depth outline of your decisions, especially if undergoing a medical procedure, consider drawing up a DNR order or including this type of information in your living will.
While no one can truly prepare for the tribulations of death, proper planning and conversation can make a very difficult time slightly easier, for you and your loved ones.