Ninety percent of people think it's important to talk about loved ones' wishes for end-of-life care, as well as their own wishes, but less than 30 percent have actually done it. They're difficult talks to have, but also meaningful, important and rewarding. By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief.
Living wills and other advance directives are written, legal instructions regarding your preferences for medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Advance directives guide choices for doctors and caregivers if you're terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life. By creating these documents, you can help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.
Consider setting up an appointment with your health care provider to create or review your advance directives. When you have completed your documents, you should:
- Keep the originals in a safe but easily accessible place, and give a copy to your health care provider and health care power of attorney.
- Talk to family members and other important people in your life about your advance directives and your health care wishes.
Discussing your wishes with your family and health care provider beforehand can help everyone come to an understanding of what your expectations are. Our community is fortunate, as Cone Health offers exceptional palliative care, family medicine, social work, spiritual care and other related services dedicated to providing the education and resources needed for the process of preparing advance medical directives and how to discuss wishes at the end of life with family.
Elizabeth Golding, DO, is the medical director of the Palliative Medicine Team at Cone Health. She completed medical school at Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine and her residency at Cone Health’s Moses Cone Hospital.