How Do You Want to Live?
What is important to you? What do you value? How do you want to live? These are questions we ask ourselves throughout our lives, and the answers fuel our decisions. We do our best to make choices and build a life that is in tune with our beliefs and needs.
In April there’s a special day set aside called Health Care Decisions Day. It’s a reminder that our wishes for emergency and end-of-life care are just as important as our wishes and plans for careers, family, and lifestyle. Something that makes our healthcare wishes different, though, is that we need to put them in writing and explain them to our loved ones to ensure they are carried out.
What you need
LifeCare Advocates is a community partner of Honoring Choices Massachusetts, a great resource for learning about the documents you should use in Massachusetts:
- Healthcare proxy, in which you appoint someone to speak for you if you cannot.
- Personal directive. Also called a living will, this document lets you outline the care you do or don’t want.
- Durable power of attorney, which names the person who can make financial decisions for you.
- Comfort care/do not resuscitate order (CC/DNR). Use this document to indicate whether you’d want to be resuscitated, or to only receive comfort care.
- Medical orders for life-sustaining treatment (MOLST), a form for people who are frail or living with a serious illness.
Each state has its own recommended forms. Check your state government’s website for information.
Even if you’ve discussed your wishes with loved ones, it’s important to put everything in writing and ensure the right parties (doctors, lawyers, etc.) have copies. “If it’s not in writing and not in the right places, that can undermine any wishes you may have verbalized,” says Kate Granigan, CEO of LifeCare Advocates.
Start the conversation
If you don’t have any of these documents in place, now’s the time to normalize having the conversation, says Kate. She suggests reframing the topic so it’s not just thinking about how you want to die, but how you would like to live. “That reframe alone helps people to say what’s important to them and what they would like if they weren’t able to express it.”
Kate emphasizes that it’s never too early for an adult to think about advance planning. “We get clients who are coming to us at a younger age now,” she notes. “Predominantly they have gone through an experience with an older loved one where these things had not been discussed. The younger adults had to muddle through these decisions. That encourages the younger generation, while they’re well, to take steps to make sure their own wishes are known.”
If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, an organization called The Conversation Project can help. Their site provides tips and guidelines, including downloads, for starting conversations about end-of-life care.
Having an objective person help talk through what can be an emotionally charged conversation can help. Our Aging Life Care Managers® are available to help coach and guide the process.