There’s a lot of confusion about the term living will. A living will, sometimes referred to as an advance directive, is a legal document that lets medical professionals and family members know your wishes for end-of-life care. It only comes into play if you’re in a coma or vegetative state and can’t make decisions for yourself or are unable to communicate your wishes.
With a living will, you can designate a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. It’s particularly beneficial should your health begin to fail or you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease with no hope of recovery. It’s also a good idea if you’re undergoing surgery or you may require long-term hospitalization.
You can make a living will as general or specific as you’d like, but they can cause confusion if you’re not specific enough. It’s a good idea for anyone age 18 or older to create one and to choose their words carefully. The document relives family members of the trauma of whether to withdraw life support and can prevent legal battles.
Once utilized primarily to specify medical procedures and treatments, living wills are now typically more focused on pain management, the use or non-use of life support options, resuscitation, feeding tubes to prolong life, and funeral plans or memorial services.
You can create your own living will, but it can also be helpful to obtain the advice of a legal professional. You can download a digital copy online that’s specific to your state and copies can be made for individual family members. Don’t forget to submit one to your physician to go in your permanent health record. The forms have the pertinent content, you just need to fill in the blanks, have it witnessed and notarized.
Everyone should also be aware that not all physicians will honor a living will. Make sure spouses and family members know about your living will, where to find it, and update it when appropriate.
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