If you’ve been reading the news—and is there anyone out there who hasn’t been?—you’ve thought about your economic wellbeing for at least a moment. You might’ve even reviewed your cash flow and prepared a budget to ensure you’re set up to weather the current crisis. And if you’re among the 47 million at risk of losing your job, you’ve probably planned for that, too.
So why haven’t you done the same concerning your physical wellbeing?
Attending to potential future healthcare outcomes doesn’t just mean wearing a mask and respecting social distancing guidelines—though there’s no overstating the importance of these things. It means instituting an advance healthcare directive. Think of this document as your worst-case-scenario plan. Should you become incapacitated—such as often happens when placed on a ventilator, for example—your advance healthcare directive will instruct those caring for you on how to do so according to your wishes.
But people my age aren’t at risk…
Unless you’re less than six weeks old, that is simply not true. Tragically, the UK just reported their first infant death from Covid-19; over a month ago an infant of the same age passed in the US. While experts agree that the mortality rate is highest among senior citizens, nobody is entirely safe from complications. And even if this weren’t the case, filing an advance healthcare directive is still critical. After all, as uncomfortable a truth as it may be, no one knows when their time may be up. Preparing for this uncertainty isn’t an admission of vulnerability, it is an act of pragmatic caring.
Your loved ones will thank you.
It may be that more people don’t invest in an advance healthcare directive because they don’t know how complex medical decisions can become. In describing the passing of a 30-year-old patient suffering from Covid-19, Dr. Asha Shajahan, a primary care physician in metro Detroit, writes, “His father, devastated after seeing the numbers related to his condition, didn’t want any further treatment that would prolong the inevitable. His mother wanted to try everything that could possibly be done to save him.” Had an advance directive been in place, the young man’s parents could have been spared this heartbreaking conflict.
Filing an Advance Healthcare Directive
Few people will argue against the importance of an advance healthcare directive but many would sooner run the risk of family tragedy than fill out extra paperwork. Luckily, getting things rolling is pretty straightforward. An advance healthcare directive enables you to designate a person or persons whom you trust and who would be willing to represent you in the event that a someone need to make decisions on your behalf and to also to express your treatment preferences in the event you become gravely ill and are no longer able to communicate – as you would in a living will. These decisions require careful reflection and are critical to ensure that your family and caregivers are not faced with uncertainty.
An experienced estate attorney is a valuable resource as you articulate how your values and beliefs might determine the level of care you receive. Not only will they inform you of what your individual estate requires of a living will or advance care directive, they will point out any unforeseen consequences that might result from restrictions you put in place.
The sort of thinking required of a living will is similar to that needed for last will and testament—another document every adult should have—and so while you’re checking boxes on your to-do list, why not talk to your attorney about addressing this and any other relevant estate planning documents? After all, if you’re like so many folks stuck at home, time isn’t something you’re lacking…
To register for a free virtual estate planning workshop and get started, click here.
Contact Attorney James M. Miskell