This post, sharing tips on how to help a loved one with senior care decisions, is part of a series exploring the different questions that come up when searching for senior living solutions. Follow along in our “What is Senior Living?” series to learn more about the ins and outs of senior living.
At times, health conditions may make it hard for a senior loved one to communicate their desires regarding their health care choices. In those instances, it can be very difficult for loved ones to make necessary decisions.
Ways to Learn About a Loved One’s Wishes Regarding Senior Care
More often than not, the discussion of senior care does not arise until there is an incident or diagnosis. Unfortunately, in some cases, that is too late to let wishes and preferences be known and followed.
Talk About It.
Sit down and have a discussion about end-of-life health care. Ask questions about what your loved one’s desire would be if they at some time couldn’t make decisions about their health care. Ask about their resources for paying for health care and what is in place to help someone navigate things in case of an incident or diagnosis. This discussion may very likely be emotional and hard, but the time spent discussing these questions early on may make things much less emotional or difficult in the future.
There are legal documents that will help with decisions on end-of-life care as well, but a candid discussion about all aspects of senior care decisions will give even more insight than these documents may provide.
Set Up a Living Will.
A living will is not the same as a will. One major difference between them is that a will has no legal impact until after death. However, the stipulations directed in a living will go into effect while the subject is alive, but is incapacitated in a way that would prevent them from making health care decisions.
A living will includes preferences for what is wanted or not wanted when it comes to medical care. It may contain preferences for things that are considered life-prolonging medical care, including blood transfusions, CPR, use of a respirator, surgery, feeding tubes, and more. It may also include wishes for pain relief, or palliative care, choices. A living will includes any Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders and Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms. Often, a living will may name a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or a Health Care Agent to help make decisions based on wishes outlined in the living will.
A Living will does not have to be crafted by a lawyer, but there are state-specific laws that need to be followed. Many states have their own advance directive forms which can be found through your local Area Agency on Aging. Some states require that a living will is witnessed; a few require the signee’s signature to be notarized.
Appoint a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
We never know what our health decisions may be in the future. Even with the best amount of planning, something can come up that requires a medical decision which may not already have been written out or discussed. A Durable Power of Attorney (or Health Care Agent, or Health Care Proxy) would be someone who is trusted to make health care decisions based on wishes already given.
Many states combine the Health Care Proxy and Living Will into one document. It is important that not only the person signing these documents have copies of them, but also the chosen durable power of attorney for health care.
Read more about these topics:
- Advance Care Planning: Healthcare Directives via the National Institute on Aging
- Find or Replace Your Loved One’s Missing Documents via the AARP
- 3 Legal Documents Caregivers Need to Manage a Seniors Health Care via AgingCare.com
- Getting Your Affairs in Order via the National Institute of Aging