Many people think planning for illness or death should be left to our parents’ generation as we’re far too young and healthy to worry about those things. This thinking is just wrong. Unfortunately, we never know when an illness will rear its ugly head. My sister was pregnant with her third child at the age of 36. She was an athlete and in perfect health. Toward the end of her pregnancy, she experienced double vision. The doctor assumed it was pregnancy related, but it continued after she gave birth. After many tests, my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer at the ripe old age of 36. I’m certain prior to this diagnosis she never gave a thought to the need for an Advanced Healthcare Directive.
An Advanced Healthcare Directive serves multiple purposes. First, the document appoints a person to act as your agent to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to due to physical or mental incapacity. You’re also able to designate a second or third backup agent. Second, the document provides a directive so your agent and doctor know exactly what you would want in certain situations, especially decisions regarding emergency treatments to continue life. For instance, do you want measures taken to prolong your life if your brain has been damaged or your quality of life may be impacted?
These aren’t easy conversations to have with your family members, but they are important. Knowing what your wishes are should an emergency occur provides family members with peace of mind. They’ll know they’re making decisions based on your wishes, and this peace of mind is priceless.
My sister is alive and well, raising her three beautiful children (I’m not at all biased). However, she’s a perfect example of why planning is so important. If life has taught us anything, it’s that our lives can forever change without warning. Proper planning will make those changes easier to navigate and provide our family with direction.
Kariann Voorhees is an attorney and partner at Voorhees & Ratzlaff Law Group