End of Life Care: Do My Children Know My Wishes?
One of the most important conversations you can have with your adult children is also one of the most difficult. If you become incapacitated, what are your thoughts and feelings about your medical care? Would you want to receive life-prolonging interventions if you were pronounced brain dead? If you have suffered a serious accident, what are your thoughts on pain management if the required doses keep you sleepy and lethargic? These are tough questions to answer for yourself and tough to talk about with your children. However, having the conversation today can potentially make everyone’s lives easier later, both for you and your loved ones.
While a comprehensive estate plan will include documentation of your wishes, the opportunity to share your wishes with your children—especially if one of them is your health care agent—is the opportunity to talk through some of the nuances that may be missed in a written legal document.
If jumping right into a discussion about your end-of-life care decisions is overwhelming and the need to do so is not immediate, here is a strategy that may help you ease into the conversation.
Start Talking about End-of-Life Situations
Find a way to talk through end-of-life situations that do not hit so close to home. If there is a national news story dealing with end-of-life care, weave it into your next conversation so you can start expressing your thoughts. Or you can take a more direct approach. Find a book to read or a movie to watch that includes the subject and, after everyone’s had a chance to finish, have a family discussion. Beginning the conversation in the third person may be an effective way to prepare everyone for a more personal conversation in the future.
Move a Little Closer to Home
Chances are, if you have adult children, the family and friends around you are already facing these kinds of decisions. When you share the news about your great aunt’s stroke you could also share your thoughts and feelings with your children about how you would want to be cared for if it were you. Invite their questions and answer them honestly. Turn the family update into a conversation and provide a glimpse into your own decision-making process.
Get Specific about Your Own End-of-Life Wishes
Here is another opportunity to start with a related topic that might be an easier entry point. Do you want to be an organ donor? You have probably already designated this decision on your driver’s license, or you have signed your organ donation form. That is a black-and-white decision to begin the conversation.
However, after that, there is a lot of gray to talk through and that is where the conversations become so important. Talk about different scenarios. Create variables and share how your thoughts might change and why. For example, if you are completely immobilized by a stroke and then your heart stops, would you want to be resuscitated? If the stroke also left you mentally impaired, would your decision change?
While you likely will not cover every possible scenario, sharing the thought process itself will provide important insights as to how decisions should be made on your behalf if the need arises. This can give your family peace of mind as they will know they are following your wishes.
One Final Thought
Your thoughts and feelings about your end-of-life care may change over time. So be sure to revisit the conversations and your estate-planning documents that support them.
Work with an experienced Virginia Estate Planning Attorney
We can help prepare your healthcare powers of attorney and even facilitate conversations with your health care agent. Contact Wilson Law PLC today at 866-603-5976 to set up a meeting or fill out our contact form and we will call you to schedule your meeting.