Difficult Conversations: Why You Should Talk to Your Family About Your End of Life Decisions
So you have thought about your end of life decisions and maybe have even put those decisions into a Medical Power of Attorney, Designation of Patient Advocate Agreement or Living Will. You have specified whether you want heroic measures taken to save your life or whether you wish that your doctors do not attempt to resuscitate. What happens next? You need to have a conversation with your family about these decisions that you have made.
One reason to have this difficult conversation with your family is because someone needs to know what your wishes are so they can be enforced when you may not be able to do so for yourself. A Medical Power of Attorney or Designation of Patient Advocate Agreement allows you to appoint someone to make your medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. It is essential that your agent know what your wishes are so they can make decisions in line with your wishes. While the conversation may not be one you are looking forward to and may cause you some anxiety, it is better to work through the anxiety so that when, and if, the time comes, your agent knows and is following your wishes.
Additionally, many agents that you appoint in your Medical Power of Attorney or Designation of Patient Advocate Agreement may have some uneasiness about serving in that role as they may have some anxiety in making the wrong decision. If you have detailed out your wishes and have had a conversation with them as to what you want to happen, it makes their job that much easier and they can rest assured that they are following your wishes. They can have confidence in making tough decisions because they are clear on what you want to happen. It can also help relieve them from guilt in wondering if they made a wrong decision.
While having the conversation may be difficult, most families that have the conversation about end of life decisions feel more at ease about facing the time when they may need to make tough decisions about a loved one’s end of life decisions. You will also feel more at ease in knowing that your wishes are known and will be honored.