Most people do not want to think about death and dying — so they don’t. Until they have to.
Unfortunately, that often means that families are left struggling with difficult decisions about important matters, such as whether or not Mom would like to be kept alive using a ventilator, or who should be in charge of managing Dad’s financial affairs, because Mom or Dad never made clear what they wanted for themselves.
Advance directives are important tools for anyone to have, because even the healthiest person could experience a sudden accident and not be able to speak for herself. But when you have a life-threatening illness, it’s particularly critical to make clear, in writing, what your wishes are should the time come when you can’t express them yourself.
There are two primary kinds of advance directives:
•A living will spells out your preferences about certain kinds of life-sustaining treatments. For example, you can indicate whether you do or do not want interventions such as cardiac resuscitation, tube feeding, and mechanical respiration.
•A power of attorney directive names someone that you trust to act as your agent if you are unable to speak for yourself. If you want to choose one person to speak for you on health care matters, and someone else to make financial decisions, you can do separate financial and health care powers of attorney.