The United States is getting older everyday. According to government estimates, nearly 22% of Americans will be 65 or older by 2040. By 2060, that number grows to 98 million, more than double the current number. This unprecedented demographic shift will have many unpredictable cultural impacts. However one thing is guaranteed: those older Americans will all need competent care as they age. If you’re an older American or care about someone who is, it’s prudent to start planning for those needs today.
An important part of this planning process involves making decisions about life-saving or life-sustaining medical procedures before they’re needed. These Advance Directives are legal documents outlining your preferred methods of care. Should you become incapacitated, your family, friends, and medical professionals can then carry out your wishes. There are several different types of advance directives:
- Durable Power of Attorney: If you become too ill to make decisions for yourself, a durable power of attorney empowers someone you trust to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
- Living Will: If your life is threatened, a living will gives physicians instructions on when they should withhold care.
- Combined Directives: These include elements of both the durable power of attorney and living will as well as outlining more specific wishes regarding care outside of hospitals.
These advanced directives are not all-powerful, however. An attorney can help you create documents that ensure your wishes will be carried out under a variety of circumstances. Each state also has their own laws surrounding advance directives. You should consult your own state health department for more information.
Advanced Directives and Home Care
When you complete your advanced directives, it’s important to share them with the people in your life. This includes family, friends, your hospital and health care workers, and your health care proxy. If you’re currently using in-home care, your primary caregiver should also be aware of your directives as you’ll likely be spending significant amounts of time together. If you live in the greater Phoenix area and have questions about advanced directives and home care, feel free to ask. We’d be happy to help!
Planning for the Future
While planning for your own death might seem macabre, the process provides clarity for your loved ones during a moment of crisis. They’ll know your exact wishes, so there won’t be any guessing or arguing about what you truly want. This can be a profound final gift to give the people you love the most.
For more information on advanced directives, visit medicare.gov.