Post: Advance Care Directive: More Comprehensive Than A Living Will

Senior Couple Sitting at the Lake

What’s More Important Than a Living Will?

By Rev. Bill Gruenewald

Even if you are in perfect health, it is important to be prepared for the eventual day you are called home. Having a solid estate plan is the foundation of that preparation, and something everyone should have to ensure they do not unnecessarily burden those they leave behind.

A Living Will outlines what preferences you have for your end-of-life care. Not to be confused with a Last Will & Testament, which determines distribution of your assets, a Living Will specifies things like Do Not Resuscitate orders, what pain medications may be used, and organ donor status. 

Historically, a Living Will was used in conjunction with an Advanced Care Plan and a Medical Power of Attorney Form to form the basis of medical decision-making should a person be unable to coherently make those decisions on their own. In 2017, the Tennessee Department of Health combined these three documents into a single, comprehensive document called the Advance Directive for Health Care.

Why You Need An Advance Care Directive

While the documents used before 2017 are still valid, having an up-to-date Advance Care Directive lets you answer all of the important questions about end-of-life care so your family doesn’t have to. These questions include:

Who gets to make decisions for you?

Assigning someone Medical Power of Attorney means that you control who makes decisions if you are unable to do so. You do not want to put your spouse or your children in the uncomfortable position of having to decide who gets the final word in your treatment. Dealing with the declining health of a loved one is difficult enough.

Comfort care vs. clinical care

When dealing with a potentially terminal illness, decisions must be made whether to treat it aggressively by any means necessary or to prioritize comfort. Also known as palliative care, comfort care preferences include things like pain medication options, avoiding invasive procedures, or being allowed to die at home instead of the hospital.

Organ and tissue donation

Many states allow you to choose your organ donation status at the DMV when you get a new driver’s license. However, an Advance Care Directive allows you to update this information as well as specify which organs and tissues you are willing to donate.

DNR & emergency treatments

It’s important to decide which emergency treatments you are willing to undergo, as some can be extremely invasive. Some people want to use every means necessary for treatment, while others have a line they prefer not to cross. Setting these boundaries in an Advance Care Directive means others don’t have to make that decision for you. This includes distinctions for: 

  • Do Not Resuscitate orders
  • Do Not Intubate orders
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Dialysis
  • Tube feeding

Don’t let these important questions go unanswered

These are unpleasant topics to think about, but they are necessary. Families shouldn’t have to deal with an avalanche of difficult questions and decisions when a loved one is in a terminal condition. Giving your family clarity on your final wishes is one of the best gifts you can give.

If you are unprepared for the end of your life, we are here to help. Contact us today and we’ll walk you through the first steps in preparing the necessary documents. Please, don’t wait. The peace of mind you and your family will have should the unexpected happen is invaluable.

You can reach us via phone at (615) 371-2029 or fill out this form.