chapter  10
48 Pages

Death Prep a ra tion

Have you chosen someone to speak on your behalf if you become ill and unable to make your wishes known about accepting or refusing medical intervention? It is important that you discuss your health care desires with your physician. He or she is likely to be the one caring for you when your instructions become relevant and is much more likely to honor requests that have been communicated directly. Furthermore, your physician can help you phrase your requests in a way that makes sense to physicians and can answer any questions you may have. Your physician can also point out any illogical or inconsistent features of your requests-sometimes refusing one kind of treatment makes it illogical to expect to receive another kind of treatment. Your physician can help you make a consistent and coherent directive and tell you if there are aspects of your wishes that cannot be honored because of personal, moral, or professional constraints. Choosing a health care agent, or proxy, protects your rights, helps your loved ones avoid making difficult decisions without your guidance, and lets your doctor know your wishes. It provides care as you would like it provided, even if you can’t speak for yourself. The appointment of a health care agent can be made on a separate form created for that purpose alone or as part of a health care declaration. This appointment is not the same as the appointment of an agent for legal matters (power of attorney), even though the same person may be appointed for both. This request cannot be made on the same form. Talk to the person you would like to designate. This person must be willing to speak on your behalf and must know your wishes, values, and religious and cultural beliefs. Keep copies of your important documents in a safe place and give one to your proxy and your physician. There are three important types of directives: health care proxy, living will, and DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). These directives and other important forms will be discussed in this section. There are important tasks we can complete now that will serve us well in preparing for our dying and death. One such task involves educating us about our rights and powers as patients in America’s hospitals and nursing homes. Other tasks involve both decision making and the preparation of documents involving a formal will, a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care, organ donation, and funeral planning. The information provided here directs attention to problems which may arise in the event of death. We all have documents and information which others would have trouble locating: military discharge papers, Social Security numbers, bank accounts, safety deposit box keys, insurance policies, relatives’ addresses. All of these items must be organized to eliminate frustrating hours of searching and to be certain everything will be found. Insurance companies report that life insurance benefits are often unclaimed because survivors were unaware a policy existed. Plans for a secure financial future take a different shape at different ages. In childhood, you learn to handle an allowance. As a young adult, you establish credit, open a savings account, plan financially for your education, and begin to invest for the future. As an older adult, you broaden investments and

begin to think about retirement. Along the way, however, you should give some thought to estate planning. This means taking steps to provide for your family after your death-to make sure your property goes to those you wish to have it and to minimize any taxes that may be due upon death. Look over the categories below and check to see if you are preparing for your future in the right direction.