7 Reasons Why Writing Your Healthcare Directive Matters for Your Family

7 Reasons Why Writing Your Healthcare Directive Matters for Your Family

Father-daughter relationships are precious. When I met Joan*, her father had passed away just a few weeks before we shared a cup of coffee—and it was fresh in her mind and heart. She described her father’s end-of-life journey with such gratitude. “He died as he lived, thinking of us and how we would cope with his dying and his death,” she said. I listened as Joan shared a flood of memories…fishing trips, a father-daughter banquet, the day he walked her down the aisle, and the day she placed her firstborn child in his arms not so long ago. Tears flowed.

 

 

I was moved by the quiet tenderness with which she described his end-of-life journey. She almost whispered as she shared her family’s story. “Dad’s wishes were clear. When Dad was dying, we were able to follow his instructions. His final days were peaceful. We took turns reading to him, singing hymns together, and holding his hands. His death was as he wanted it.” His was a good death.

As our conversation continued, Joan shared her wish that she, too, would have a good death, saying, “I don’t want to burden my family with any of the decisions. I hope that my final days will be peaceful like Dad’s were.” With that opening, I urged Joan to write her own healthcare directive.


Experiencing a graceful end-of-life journey requires preparation and open communication.


Writing an effective healthcare directive (click to view infographic) is the best place to start as you develop a plan. Instead of approaching a healthcare directive as a task or a “to-do,” take a moment to connect with your heart. The 7 healthcare directive benefits listed below will help you understand why healthcare directives matter. Rather than merely checking boxes on a form, writing your healthcare directive can become a gift of love for your family.


What do you hope your family members will experience through your end-of-life journey, whenever it might come?


In his new book, Being Mortal, surgeon and New York Times contributor Atul Gawande states, “Ending matters, not just for the person but, perhaps even more, for the ones left behind.” What do you want your family members to experience through your end-of-life journey? That’s a scary question. I know it’s difficult to come to terms with your mortality. May I gently nudge you? Try to imagine your final days. If you could write the script, how would the scene unfold? For Joan, it was clear. She wanted her children to experience the same peace she had experienced through her father’s passing, even while she was grieving the loss.

These 7 healthcare directive benefits will motivate you to communicate your end-of-life preferences for your family’s sake.

  1. Protect and maintain family harmony.

    Family members frequently disagree on the appropriate treatment for a loved one. Blended families can be particularly susceptible to such disagreements. Without your clear instructions, your loved ones could face tremendous turmoil, even leading to permanently damaged family relationships.

  2. Support your decision-makers.

    Making treatment decisions on behalf of another individual is extremely emotional. Own the responsibility of making your wishes known so that others are not burdened by the emotional strain of making decisions without the support of your written preferences.

  3. Make decisions while you are able.

    As many people live into their eighties and nineties, more individuals live with dementia. Plan for end-of-life decisions while you have clarity and can make sound choices. It’s never too late… until it is too late.

  4. Legally empower your chosen healthcare agent.

    Choose your healthcare agents wisely. Empower the right people to advocate for your preferences. Ensure your appointment is legally binding through a healthcare power of attorney as part of your healthcare directive.

  5. Preserve family assets.

    Unanticipated healthcare expenses are a leading cause of bankruptcy. This delicate subject is deeply personal. Would you choose to set any financial boundaries for the care that you receive?

  6. Help your loved ones let go.

    Often, the dying process is prolonged because family members are unable to let go. You can anticipate emotional reactions and offer loving messages in your healthcare directive that encourage your family to honor your wishes. They may need your help to let you go.

  7. Keep decisions private.

    In the absence of your legal healthcare instructions, hospital administrators, ethics committees, and even the court may become involved. Keep the decision-making private and within your circle of loved ones.

By writing and communicating your own healthcare directive, you can set the example for all adults in your family—breaking the family silence on this important issue. In fact, you could organize a family meeting. I recently met a medical assistant who told me her family had a healthcare directives party. They all brought their documents, shared their wishes, and hired a notary to ensure each document was properly executed. Kelly shared that her family made it a celebration. They enjoyed great food and used the occasion to capture a family photo with three generations. What a terrific idea!

This post was written not only to describe the value of preparing for end-of-life decisions, but most importantly, to inspire action. Move beyond the feeling of “yes, this is something I should do” to taking action. Do it for your family. Click to view my resource page which offers a variety of tools to get you started.

* Joan is a pseudonym for a woman I met at the Platform 2014 conference. The conversation was real, but I’ve changed her name to honor her privacy.

QUESTION: If you or a loved one have prepared for end-of-life decisions, would you please share your story and inspire others via social media? Please share this post with your comment.


DO YOU HAVE HEALTHCARE AGENTS PREPARED TO ADVOCATE FOR YOUR MEDICAL WISHES?

 

Have you chosen your healthcare agents? Do you feel confident that your agents are willing and ready to advocate for your wishes?

This FREE guide will help you to choose, invite and prepare your healthcare agents for future medical decisions that might be required. Interested?

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