QUESTION: My daughter insists that I fill out a living will for end-of-life care. I’m 75 years old and in excellent health. She is insistent that the form has nothing to do with age or health. She has even filled out one for herself! My thought is that it is one more thing to do and I don’t see any benefit at all. What do you think? —Nancy
ANSWER: I think your daughter couldn’t be more right! And I give her kudos for approaching you with this difficult conversation. Completing a living will—better known as an advance directive—assures that your last wishes are followed if you aren’t able to communicate your needs. Doctors, nurses and chaplains tell heart-wrenching stories about end-of-life situations where an advance directive has not been filled out, leaving grieving family members with the task of assessing the best end-of-life care for their loved one. And all too often, they don’t agree. The time to fill out an advance directive is now, when you are healthy and with all of your faculties. Age isn’t a factor. Everyone 18 years and older should fill out a form. You can download a form that fulfills the requirements for your state at the Caring Connections website. Simple instructions are included. Follow them carefully and be sure to revisit your advance directive from time to time to be sure it still reflects your wishes.
Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project©, the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.com or Amazon.com.