Filling out these forms takes calm reflection and a little time. While I was writing my instructions for making health decisions, I wanted to provide guidance for situations that I may not now be able to imagine. I thought the best way to do this would be to include my thoughts about what I value in the life I have lived so far and what my daughter should think about when making difficult decisions about the quality of life. It was an uplifting exercise that reminded me of my happiness. Here is an excerpt:
For me, life is wonderful with the ability to read, write and enjoy the world around me. If life after treatment kept me in bed indefinitely or required 24/7 care, this is not a life I want to live. As you make these decisions for me, I am sorry that you are in this position, but you know that I have lived a wonderful and happy life with lots of love, joy and adventure!
For today’s Well challenge, I encourage you to take the opportunity to prepare by creating an advance health policy and collecting other documents to assist your family during times of crisis. I’ve designed six easy steps and the links you will need to get there. Sign up for the Well newsletter to receive the 7-day Well Challenge in your inbox.
Create a crisis journal
Choose a folder: While you should make a digital copy of all of your important documents, it’s a good idea to have a physical folder that loved ones can quickly access during a crisis. I chose an attractive three-ring binder that looks great on my bookshelf! It’s in the open air so it’s easy to find out if anyone needs it. You may also want to keep backups in a fireproof locker, give a phrase to a trusted friend or attorney, and scan copies to put in an online folder.
Jan. 7, 2021, 5:01 p.m. ET
Use a checklist: The first few pages in my folder are from this AARP worksheet. This is the best checklist I have found for identifying everything a loved one needs in a crisis. It has space for listing medical, insurance, financial, and end-of-life information and answers the most important question for your loved one, “Where is it kept?” Many of the documents you will need vary by state, and some require witnesses and possibly a notary. They all require careful consideration of how you would like to be cared for during illness or at the end of your life.
Write your advance directive: You can find the forms for your state on the AARP website. An advance directive should designate someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable and provide specific advice on what to do if you become seriously ill and require life support. If you do not fill out these forms in advance, your immediate family will be responsible for your care during a crisis, even if you have not selected them. In addition to putting a copy in your home folder, you can have it submitted to your doctor and lawyer if you have one.
Speak: Talk to your backup decision maker about your needs and make sure they know where the document is. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 56 percent of American adults have had serious conversations about health care preferences, 27 percent have written down their preferences, and only one in ten discussed them with a health care provider. For more guidance, see The Time for “The Talk” is now by Dr. Laura Schellenberg Johnson, a doctor at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Washington. To provide additional support to your loved ones, you should add a “last letter” to your folder.