En español | People don't want to think that an accident or illness would prevent them from saying what they want — or don't want — when it comes to their future medical care. We tell ourselves: I have plenty of time to take care of those things later … if I get sick … when I'm older.
But things do happen in our lives that are out of our control. Your family and friends need to know how you want them to handle situations if you're too ill to tell them. If they're left guessing, a conversation can quickly disintegrate into a confrontation. The fallout can result in guilt, uncertainty and arguments. Take these steps to ensure this doesn't happen if such a situation should arise:
1. Know what you need. You'll need to draw up three documents, often referred to as advance directives.
- A living will alerts medical professionals and your family to the treatments you want to receive or refuse, and under what conditions. This will only go into effect if you meet specific medical criteria and are unable to make decisions.
- A health care power of attorney delegates a spouse, trusted family member or friend to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. This document is also referred to as a health care proxy, appointment of a health care agent or durable power of attorney for health care. Be aware that a regular durable power of attorney only covers financial matters.
- A letter of instruction outlines any special requests you'd like to be carried out, such as plans for a funeral and names of people to contact. It also should include important phone numbers, such as your employer and your insurance agent or broker. Some people also include a list of meaningful possessions they'd like to give to certain loved ones. This is not a substitute for a will, but it helps clarify your intentions and feelings.