A living will is a document that indicates what medical procedures or measures your loved one wants or does not want done to them during the last stages of life. But is it the best way to fulfill that purpose? Can the Living Will be used in another way?
My wife and I took care of her elderly father for seven years. During that time we had to make medical decisions for him. We were never asked for the living will. The doctors relied on our having the health proxy. At the end of his life my father-in-law was on a respirator. He was obviously in the last 48 to 72 hours of his life yet he was scheduled for dialysis the following day at 11:30 am. Doctors or hospitals are not going to forgo a procedure and risk being sued even if that procedure is useless.
We told them not to do the dialysis. They did not ask to see the living will. He died the next day at 10:20 am.
In that situation a living will is redundant. Its value comes in if relatives would dispute the decisions you make. You don’t want them second guessing what you do and you certainly don’t want them taking you to court.
If your loved one wants a living will it might be best to be as vague as possible. You, as the agent should have a good understanding of what you loved one wants. You should be the kind of person who can stand up to doctors and the medical establishment. Putting in words like, ‘if my situation is hopeless’ could leave it to a hospital committee to decide what those words mean. That is exactly what you are trying to avoid. You want to stay in control of the situation.
Another issue is the speed with which medical technology is progressing. What was extraordinary ten years ago is routine today. Don’t limit your Loved One’s options by being too specific.
If you are going to draw up a living will should be done in consultation with the Loved One’s doctor. Keep it in a safe place but don’t attach it to the health proxy.
What would be of value is a “Medical Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST). Your Loved One and his/her doctor fill it out and it gives instructions as to what procedures to follow if the Loved One loses consciousness. It is bright pink in color and should be attached to the refrigerator door.
In case Emergency Services is called in and you are not there to guide them, the MOLST will tell them if the Loved One does not want to be resuscitated.
My experience is based on seven years of hands on, 24/7 experience in providing elder care. I thought that the experiences we went through were unique to my family. Unfortunately, it is not. It is common among unpaid care givers. Based on my extensive interviews with other care givers, the up close nature of elder care, the exhaustion, the callousness of relatives, the loss of freedom, the sleeplessness are par for the course. home care assistance montreal