They were a couple and had been together for decades, but nothing was ever made legal. It made perfect sense that when Pat got sick, Dee would be at the bedside. However, since there was no legal tie to their relationship, and they had never completed a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, Dee was not the person the staff could look to for making medical decisions for Pat; instead, Pat’s sibling, who had hardly any contact with Pat in 20 years, was the decision-maker.
I arrived on the scene just a few hours after Pat became comatose. I talked with Dee about an advance directive, a living will, a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Dee said they had never really got around to talking about those sorts of things; they always thought they’d have more time. Dee took a copy of Five Wishes, an easy-to-use form that served as a tool for meeting all of Pat’s needs. But Pat never woke up, so there was no way to get a signature or to learn about what Pat preferred at the end of life.
Dee was left alone to wonder if what happened was what Pat had wanted and about the consequences of not making legal decisions before it was too late.
Talking about living wills, healthcare power of attorney and the things you want and don’t want to happen to you if you’re unable to speak for yourself are all uncomfortable conversations to have. But the gift you give by making those decisions before they are needed is something that your loved ones will be extremely grateful for, and it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
If you don’t already have an advance directive, or if you haven’t ever thought about a power of attorney for healthcare, consider going online to www.agingwithdignity.org and click on the Five Wishes link. You will have the opportunity to work through your wishes for:
The person you want to make care decisions for you when you can’t
- The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want
- How comfortable you want to be
- How you want people to treat you
- What you want your loved ones to know.
Do it today. You won’t always have more time.