Why Do Seniors Need A Living Will?

No one wants to talk about end-of-life issues, especially if those issues involve a beloved family member or themselves.

But no matter how hesitant family members are to broach the subject, it’s crucial that a living will be discussed and legally documented while your loved one is still able to make known his or her wishes for end-of-life care.

As they age, your loved one can become more prone to hospitalization and emergency room visits. You want them to be prepared for any scenario, and this can be especially concerning if they reside in a senior living community.

A living will and other accompanying documents assist caregivers with knowing and following the wishes of your loved one throughout the aging process and provide important parts of the blueprint for care coordination.

Elder Advisers has access to the necessary resources to navigate and answer questions you have about your loved one’s health and wealth needs.

It is hard to think about end of life, especially when your parent is not at that stage, but it’s critical to prepare for it ahead of time.

Studies have shown that older adults often feel relieved after sharing their end-of-life wishes. It is usually because they have specific preferences or do not want to burden their families with those decisions.

One way to share end-of-life wishes is with a living will.

Also called an advanced directive or health care directive, a living will is a legal document that lets a person state their wishes for end-of-life medical care. Family members and doctors use it to make decisions about medical treatments when that person cannot communicate or make decisions.

A living will and a medical Power of Attorney often work together. Your loved one can choose someone legally to make medical decisions for them. Sometimes that person is called the health care proxy, or health care agent.

With these two documents, your senior can control the types of treatment they’ll receive at the end of their life and who will make sure their wishes are carried out.

A living will spells out the medical treatments your older adult would and would not want to have. Decisions in a living will usually include preferences for:

  • CPR/resuscitation to restart the heart if it stops beating
  • Mechanical ventilation to take over breathing if they’re unable
  • Tube feeding if they cannot eat or drink, either by IV or tube in stomach
  • Dialysis if their kidneys no longer work
  • Antibiotics or antiviral medications to treat infections
  • Comfort care (also called palliative care) which means keeping them comfortable and as pain-free as possible – it could mean dying at home, getting pain medications, being fed ice chips for a dry throat, or avoiding invasive tests or treatments
  • Organ and tissue donations for transplantation
  • Donating their body for scientific study.

A living will help you and your family feel confident about your loved one’s care. If your loved one doesn’t have a living will or advance directive, you’ll have to make a best guess – a very stressful situation! Even worse, family members might end up arguing over treatments.

Also, if an older adult wants their unmarried partner or trusted friend to be in charge of their medical decisions, they must have a living will and medical POA in place. Otherwise, doctors will not even be able to talk with them about medical decisions.

Living wills are not the same in all states. For example, in California, it’s called an advance directive and includes both a living will and a medical POA.

Discussions about end-of-life and critical-care issues are never easy and often get put aside, but planning ahead can prevent confusion, conflict and unnecessary suffering during times of worry and grief.

Knowing a loved one’s wishes before an illness or accident ensures that family members will not have to make difficult choices in the loved one’s behalf during a crisis.

Having these conversations and thinking through important decisions before a crisis prevents additional stress, guilt, and conflict during already difficult times.

Elder Advisers® is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney. We offer financial advice. We can work closely with your existing tax and legal advisors or introduce you to those we routinely work with. Nothing in this newsletter is intended as tax advice, a solicitation for insurance, or legal advice, and is merely provided as general information, and should not be relied upon for anyone’s specific or unique circumstances. Some content of this newsletter may have been developed by third party sources not affiliated with Elder Advisers®. If you would like to discuss your situation, we are delighted to help. CALL (800) 763-7930.