Considering the worst that could happen probably isn’t the most cheery thing to think about. Nevertheless, it is something that does need thinking about. No matter what your age or circumstances, we all need to consider our future from time to time. I have already spoken about organ donation and how just one donation can save eight lives. One of the other ways we can consider our future is with a living Will. However very few people know what one is and fewer have actually prepared one. Let’s delve into what a living Will is, what you need to include in it, and why it’s so important to have one.
See, loss of a loved one envelops us in grief and lasts a long time to come. The fact remains, however, that we have to deal with their financial matters—preferably at the earliest. If they also happen to be terminally ill, a Living Will makes things much easier. Without one, the complications one can face are crazy.
When my Mom passed away, she left no Will
When we rushed my Mom to emergency care following an unexpected collapsed lung, they put her on life support, and little did we know that five days later, she would pass away. On day 4, the doctors told us that the prognosis was not good and we should consider “pulling the plug”—a decision I would never have the guts to take. The following day, she succumbed to a massive heart attack.
We donated her body as per her wishes, but it wasn’t easy. Our family wasn’t happy—and today, I am more or less cut off from everyone. Perhaps if she had made a Living Will stating her preferences, it could have been less painful.
Not to bore you with further details, I’d rather tell you why making a Living Will is crucial—both for yourself and your near and dear ones. It makes difficult decisions easier for family and the medical professional.
What is a living Will?
There are various types of living Wills, but the basis behind them remains the same. A living Will is a way of setting out your wishes for the future if you were to fall terminally ill or have lost the mental capacity to make decisions about medical treatment. Effectively, it lets your healthcare team (and family) know what your wishes are if you are unable to communicate them. Of course, thinking about this kind of thing isn’t the most pleasant, but it is important.
There are two categories of living Wills:
- an advance statement – this will detail what kind of treatment you would like to receive if you were to become terminally ill
- an advance decision – will detail any types of treatment you want to refuse in the future should you be in an accident and unable to communicate your wishes
An advance statement is not legally binding, but should be considered by your health care team and loved ones if you become unwell. An advance decision, however, can be made legally binding.
How to create a living Will
How you create your living Will depends on whether you are opting for an advance statement or advance decision. It’s best to consider both options, but remember that only one can become legally binding. If you wish to create an advance statement, it should include details such as
- where you would like to be cared for (at home, in hospital, or in a hospice),
- foods you like or any dietary requirements you have,
- any religious beliefs or values, who you would like to visit you, and
- any likes or dislikes.
You must write this down and give copies to your health care provider and anyone else in charge of your care.
An advance decision is slightly different, as it can become legally binding if it is valid and signed by yourself and a witness. This living Will must detail what kind of treatment you refuse and under what circumstances. It must be extremely clear about when you want to refuse treatment, such as CPR or life-support, even if it would lead to your death. The statement “even if life is at risk as a result” should be included if you wish to refuse treatment that may lead to your passing. It is essential to discuss all of the particulars with your healthcare professional before preparing this kind of living Will.
Why it’s important to prepare a living Will
There are many reasons to prepare a living Will, no matter what your circumstances. The most vital reason is that it will provide your loved ones with your wishes when you may be unable to communicate them yourself. They may already be going through a difficult and emotional time, knowing that you are unwell, and there will be plenty of things to think about; for example, finances.
Research by Direct Line found that even a death in service benefit is leaving many families with a huge mortgage shortfall. If the worst were to happen to you, it’s essential your loved ones have all of the information they possibly can. And that doesn’t just mean who gets what! Let them know your wishes for your own care, to make a difficult time just that little bit easier. Many people may also wish to refuse treatment due to religious beliefs or values. If this is the case, it’s imperative you let your wishes known as soon as possible.
A living Will is not something that everyone knows about, but it is something that everyone should have. Even if you’re young and fighting fit now, life can take us down difficult paths. Make sure you make things as easy as you can for your loved ones, by preparing a living Will.
I know I will.
Do you have a living Will?
Is this something you’d consider?
Let me know in the comments.