A living will – called an advance health care directive in California -- provides instructions about how you want to be cared for at the end of your life. It allows you to convey your wishes at during a time, when you may not be able to do so. It also spares loved ones from having to guess at what you wanted.
The (St. George UT) Spectrum’s recent article, “How to Make a Living Will,” explains that to adequately detail your wishes concerning your end-of-life medical treatment, you should have two legal documents: a living will that tells your physicians what kind of care you want to receive, if you become incapacitated; and a health care power of attorney or health care proxy. This document designates an individual you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf, if you become incapacitated.
These two documents are sometimes called an Advance Directive. The documents are only used, if you are too ill to make medical decisions yourself. You can also change and update them, whenever you want.
It’s recommended that you have these documents prepared by an attorney who focuses their practice on estate planning and health care related matters. Many are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA.org) and the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (NAEPC.org).
In addition, you should think about whether or not you want to include a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR) as part of your advance directive. That’s because an advanced directive doesn’t really protect you from unwanted emergency care, like CPR. Doctors and hospitals in all states accept them. To create a DNR, ask your physician to complete a form that’s accepted in your state and sign it. Make sure to tell friends and family where it is located, if the time comes that it is needed.
Another document that you should know about, also related to your advance directive, is the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). This document is currently endorsed in 22 states (including California), with 24 more in some phase of development. A POLST translates your end-of-life wishes into medical orders that will be honored by your doctors. Here is a link to the California POLST form on the California Medical Association web site. http://www.cmanet.org/files/pdf/misc/2016-ca-polst-english-f.pdf
To be certain that your final wishes are followed, make sure that you tell your family members, health care proxy and healthcare team, so they all are informed as to what you want.
You should also provide copies of your advanced directive to all those involved, to help prevent stress and arguments when the time comes.
If yours is a tech-savvy family, you may want to consider the use of an online service that stores your advance directive, so that anyone with access to the account can obtain the advanced directive instantly when needed. Be certain that everyone has log in information.
Reference: The (St. George UT) Spectrum (June 11, 2018) “How to Make a Living Will”