What is a Living Will?

It’s a fact that life can be unpredictable. It’s important for people of all ages to understand that; if the unexpected were to happen, wouldn’t you want your wishes to be made known? This is when the importance of having a living will comes into play. There’s no time like the present for creating a living will if you haven’t already.

A living will by definition is “a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent”. Unlike a traditional will, which designates property to loved ones and names an executor to your estate, a living will lets your loved ones know your wishes regarding the treatment you’d like if you cannot direct your own medical care due to illness, injury or advanced age.

A living will is also known as an advance directive. In the event that you become unable to make decisions regarding your healthcare, an advance directive will be signed by a competent person who will provide guidance for these decisions. Along with a living will, other types of advance directories include:

Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA): This document legally designates a person, referred to as a healthcare agent or proxy, to make medical decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated.

Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR): This is a request to not be given CPR if you stop breathing. Your living will does not have to have the DNR order, but your doctor can include it in your medical chart.

It’s important to designate someone as your healthcare agent or POA, even though it’s not necessary to have both a POA and a living will. Your living will can’t cover every possible situation, so having someone designated to make decisions for you based on your wishes is important. This person can interpret what your wishes might have been in situations that weren’t specifically spelled out in your living will.

Advantages of Creating a Living Will

This type of legal document will detail your living wishes by describing your preferences regarding end-of-life care, so any requests should go into your living will. It will communicate the types of life-sustaining measures you’d like taken, such as:

Palliative Care: If you don’t desire to have life-prolonging treatments, palliative care can be administered to reduce pain.

Resuscitation: These treatments will restart the heart after cardiac death.

Respiration/Ventilation: When you’re no longer able to breathe on your own, a machine can be take over breathing for you.

Tube-feeding: Delivering nutrients and fluids intravenously via a tube through the stomach.

The requirements for living wills vary state by state. In the state of North Carolina, you can complete a legal document that contains three parts. Part I is the North Carolina Healthcare Power of Attorney, where you appoint someone to be your healthcare agent. Part II is the North Carolina Advance Directive for a Natural Death, which is the state’s living will. Finally, Part III will contain the signature and witnessing provisions so that your document is effective. Again, it’s not necessary to complete both Parts I and II, but it’s recommended to address all your advanced planning needs.

Find out more about the benefits of Life Care offered at Galloway Ridge by clicking here.