Last month’s article focused on “Angry in Anaheim,” a Dear Amy letter. The “Angry” author was furious with her brother for “tearing the family apart” by insisting that the doctors follow dad’s “do not resuscitate” instructions in his advance directive. She wanted the doctors to listen to mom and keep dad alive.
I spoke about the two big issues Angry’s letter raised: 1. By creating an advance directive, dad took this decision out of his family’s hands; the doctors were legally obligated to follow dad’s instructions. 2. Much of the family’s conflict could have been avoided had dad had a candid conversation about his advance directive and what it meant.
It is so hard to have this conversation. But it is an essential one to have.
If you have created an advance directive it is crucial that family and friends are aware of it and understand it. They need to understand that you have a legally binding document that appoints a health care representative and provides health care instructions in the event that you are unable to make these decisions yourself.
I even counsel clients to bring loved ones into the conversation before creating your advance directive. The advance directive requires big decisions, and it is so helpful to mull over these decisions with those that know you best. Engaging your loved ones in the decision-making process can be effective in helping you determine what you truly want for yourself, and can also be helpful in ensuring that your loved ones better understand what you would want.
While not necessarily fun or uplifting conversation starters, you should discuss the following questions in advance of creating your advance directive:
- If I stopped breathing, would I want to be revived through CPR?
- What if I am in a persistent vegetative state? Would I want to prolong my life through tube-feeding or a breathing machine?
- What if I had dementia? What kind of medical treatments would I want to ensure were given to me if I couldn’t decide?
- If I had an incurable illness, what measures would I want to be taken to manage my pain?
- Would I want hospice or hospital care?
- Who would I want to act as my health care representative, advocating for me and making decisions on my behalf if I am unable to?
Start this conversation. Have it with yourself, have it with your loved ones. Reflect on what is important. Make your plans. Serve as your own steward to make your wishes known. If you need help starting this conversation, I can help you. Oregon Health Decisions is a non-profit organization that also has some great tools to get these discussions going, check out the website here.
Robert (Bob) Good has practiced law in Jackson County for over twenty years, specializing in family law, estate planning and administration and business law. Contact him at his Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.