It seems rare these days to see someone approach the end of their life with dignity. Elizabeth Edwards gave her family and the whole world a gift last week as the culmination of her brave battle with cancer ended when she decided to withdraw treatment and go home. In this very well written article from CNN.com, oncology nurse Theresa Brown points out that Elizabeth Edwards helped bring attention to a very hard truth to swallow. “…she acknowledged a truth we Americans keep trying harder and harder to run away from: Everyone dies. It’s not an easy fact to contemplate, but it is true.”
If we approach this topic in advance, many of us will have time to contemplate the very important question: How do I want to die? As you begin to contemplate that question, there are several other important questions that can help guide you through the process.
Who do you want making decisions if you can’t?
After reading the article from oncology nurse Theresa Brown, one of my first thoughts was, “It’s great that Elizabeth Edwards made the decision to stop treatment on her own. Many times somebody else is making that decision.” And often times, the people making the decisions have not been adequately prepared for such a significant job. While nobody likes to talk about such things, I think holiday gatherings with family can be a good time to begin the conversation.
Such conversations can be really hard to start. The Conversation Project is a public engagement initiative with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to have every person’s wishes for end-of-life care expressed and respected. We encourage you to download their free conversation starter kit today.
It is also a good idea to consider having a wave of discussions with family and loved ones. This topic is a very big and weighty issue. One that doesn’t have to be tackled all at once. Having a series of smaller conversations with your friends and family can be most helpful.
Once you have decided who will make the decisions, and even completed an Illinois Statutory Healthcare Power of Attorney, it is still very important to write down details. The POA gives a lot of power to someone, but it does not provide them any guidance about how to enact your wishes.
What documents do I need to create or have in place?
After you have decided who you want your decision maker to be, it is essential to put everything in writing. Written instructions can really benefit and bolster the confidence of your decision maker, and give the rest of your friends and family peace during a very difficult time.
As you can imagine, writing such things down can be very overwhelming. The website www.CaringInfo.org has a lot of helpful resources and articles that can help you understand the process. Of course, we at the Edwards Group are here to help you with such issues!
Our philosophy sets us apart from many other estate planning firms. We don’t just care about the documents involved with end of life issues, though those are vitally important. We care about the bigger process – you, your family, friends and those intangibles that make a life so meaningful. As experienced attorneys dealing with these issues on a daily basis, we can help guide you, facilitate discussions, help you figure out what your wishes are and help you communicate those things to your friends and family. It’s a plan that says, “I put thought into this decision while I was alive and healthy. This is what I want. Rely on these instructions when needed, knowing the choice was mine.”
Please give us a call us at (217) 726-9200 or contact us if we can help you with this very important step in planning.
To continue reading more about the topic of healthcare directives, check out our blog post HERE.