Stress alert! I am going to discuss a topic that most people find uncomfortable, Advance Directives and in this case Living Wills. The topic of death, and elder care is a common stressor, as we get older. Please watch the short video below. Yes, it is a dramatization, but as a nurse for 34 years I have seen this same scenario played out over and over. Notice the difference in how the two families respond to the emergency medical issue. When you don’t take responsibility for your own death, impending death, health and medical issues, or possible death it puts a huge amount of stress and grief on your family and loved ones. Leaving people to have to make decisions for you is difficult for so many reasons. Now the people in the video were young, so yes even young people need a Living Will so there is no discussion about how you would want to survive, or pass in a dire situation. Trust me you are not doing them any favors by not discussing it, or pretending it won’t happen. If the person is a minor, please seek legal advice as to how you can create a Living Will. It is another whole complicated procedure that I am not capable of discussing here. This may not even be allowable in most states. I could not find where a minor could create a Living Will in Florida. This would be considered a parental responsibility.
What is the definition of a Living Will? Each state may have slightly different definitions but in Florida a Living Will is a legally binding document that expresses an individual’s end of life preferences such as what types of procedures they would like to have done to them in end of life situations. These would be both procedures they do and do not want done. Some people may choose to be kept alive by all means necessary, while others may wish to not have any life supporting medical care that will prolong their life. A Living Will can be retracted at any time, and or updated as your desires may change through the years. It is very important, as hard and stressful as it is, to have a conversation with your family and loved ones about any desires you may have should you become incapacitated say in a car accident, or other medical reason. For example, I have CKD. I am only 51 years old. I would prefer not to be on Dialysis, especially long term. These are things I have discussed with my family, but I need to put it in writing to make it legal. This will alleviate any arguments or conflict in my immediate family or from say my mother or sisters about what my wishes are. My husband and I have this on our list of things to do this year. I have discussed with my son and his new wife the same that they should consider it too. It is hard for young people to wrap their head around having the need for a Living Will. They think it is something just for old people. It is true as you age, you may wish to be more aware of these types of issues that can add un-needed stress to you and your family.
Again, each state may have different requirements for creating a Living Will. In Florida the Living Will must be created by the person it will affect while they are competent to do so. It must be witnessed by two people of which one has to be not a spouse or a blood relative. I would recommend you give a copy to your doctor, each of your witnesses, a lawyer if you have one, and keep one handy in your wallet. There are medical alert bracelets that you can wear so first responders will know that you have an Advance Directive on file somewhere. I would also be sure that the two witnesses become your emergency contacts on any forms you fill out to be contacted in case of an emergency. My husband and I are both in our 50’s, and we have aging parents. We know exactly how difficult it can be to get people to talk about this topic. If you need to, because you are sure what your wishes are, your two witnesses do not have to be a spouse or family at all. Just be sure and follow the advice on what to do with the Living Will once it is created, and obviously you still would want your family to know that you have one.
The video below was created by University of Texas Health Science Center. At the end of the video they state give your family a gift, complete an Advance Directive, tell them what you want. Hence the title of this post.
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