More thoughts based on our May 22nd Planet Longevity post – summer as the perfect time where our family advocates have more time to be together to have open conversations about practical topics that are often sensitive to family dynamics.
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Directives for family advocates
As we go through the normal stages of life, two of the biggest gifts we can give those we love, are to document, and then to communicate key personal information to important people in our life. This allows them to act on our behalf quickly in an emergency, to prevent disagreement among family members and to enable our wishes to be carried out. It makes things easier for others, but it is also respectful of ourselves.
Three areas of key information – basic things to keep up-to-date and communicate on are: the location of documents/financial information, a record of our health issues, and our views on death and dying.
Timely access matters
Documents include such things as – our powers of attorney for care, and finances, our will, deeds, and a list of important advisors along with a list of financial investments and accounts. Timely access to these means that if we can’t act for ourselves, our designated person can. In the digital age even though we keep our information up-to-date it does no good if the files can’t be accessed. Keeping a hard copy of information in an accessible, perhaps locked and fireproof document case is wise.
The record of health issues includes having a list of medications and contact information for doctors. This is especially important in an emergency, as our health system is not seamlessly connected and the information and timeliness can mean life or death. A family member may need to advocate for us or be asked questions about our health at a time when we are unable to provide the information.
Views on end-of-life care and the degree of intervention desired are personal choices. Legal and medical options available and, our own preferences, may change over time. It’s important to communicate our wishes to those who may be making decisions if we are not capable.
Increase comfort levels for family discussion
The challenge is that in a family there are often differing values and views on such a personal issue. It can be especially helpful to have a family discussion ahead of time where everyone hears the same message regarding your wishes. It can decrease family strife and increase their comfort with difficult decisions if they know our view.
Documenting and communicating is a critical piece of this on-going process. Advisors, health issues and our views on end-of-life care may change over time. It takes discipline to make this a priority, but our loved ones will thank us for it, and they will have the means to carry out our wishes.