How Making Provisions for End-of-Life Care Helps Loved Ones

Most people avoid making decisions about end-of-life care, which can make an emergency situation much tougher for family members, who must make decisions without the benefit of knowing what you would have wanted.

It’s unpleasant to think about, but apparently rocker Tom Petty did: he had thought about his end-of-life care and executed them using the correct legal documents. As a result, his wishes were followed. Most people don’t do this, and the emotional and financial costs, can mount quickly.

When Tom Petty was found in cardiac arrest earlier in October, his family reportedly took him off of life support pursuant to a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order he had drafted, reports CNBC in its recent article, “What Tom Petty’s choices can teach you about end-of-life care.” Petty could have drafted the DNR due to a known health condition or out of general concern.

A do-not-resuscitate order is a form signed by a doctor and used when a person suffers from a serious advanced illness. The form instructs health-care professionals not to perform CPR. Another consideration is a do not intubate order, which instructs medical personnel not to insert a tube into the body for breathing.

Both DNR and DNI forms can serve as components of an advance directive, which is created by an attorney and takes effect, if you can’t speak for yourself.

That can be the situation of a chronic end-stage disease, terminal illness or persistent vegetative state. One type of advance directive is a living will, which stipulates the kind of medical care you want to receive, like tube feeding, dialysis and pain management.

A major part of this plan is communicating with your health-care agent or surrogate—the person whom you’ve designated to make decisions for you. This involves detailing what you’d want to happen if you lost the ability to communicate or process bodily functions like swallowing, bathing or other functions. When your health-care surrogate knows what’s important to you, they’ll be able to make better decisions for you.

If there is no plan in place and if the family members do not agree on a course of action, the battle over what comes next can land the family in an expensive and ugly court proceeding. A far better course of action is to complete all of these documents with an estate planning attorney, so that there are no questions about your wishes. Be wary of online forms, which may or may not be deemed acceptable by a medical facility.

Reference: CNBC (October 17, 2017) “What Tom Petty’s choices can teach you about end-of-life care?”