End-of-Life Issues: A Delicate Subject
Even though people who get cancer often have successful treatment and are
proclaimed to be cancer free, an initial diagnosis of cancer can’t help but
bring thoughts of the end of life to mind. It’s always helpful to think
positively and focus on the good things, but it’s also helpful to spend some
time making plans about the way you want to be treated at the end of your life.
Besides, every life will have its end, whether it’s from cancer or an unexpected
accident. Being prepared for this can help not only you, but your loved ones,
through a difficult emotional time.
What are some of the things you need to think about when you’re preparing for
A living will:
A written document that explains what kind of medical
treatment you would want if you are not able to communicate at the end of your
life. Some of these decisions are determined by state law, so it’s not always
clear cut, but it’s good to put your wishes in writing so that your loved ones
can respect that. Living wills falls under a category called “advance
Medical power of attorney:
This is a document that lets you choose a
person you trust to make decisions about your medical care if you become unable
to make decisions yourself. Generally, the person you choose is able to speak
for you whether you are at the end of your life or not. Medical power of
attorney documents are also in the “advance directives” category. These
documents are also sometimes called “healthcare proxy,” “appointment of
healthcare agent,” or “durable power of attorney for healthcare.”
The decisions you outline in your advance directives take effect only if you are
unable to communicate. As long as you can speak your mind, you are the one who
makes the decisions about your care.
It’s best to have both documents—the living will and the medical power of
attorney. The living will can serve as a guide to the person you choose to
represent you as medical power of attorney. And the person who represents you
can act as your voice, in addition to your living will.
Where can you get these documents?
The documents are available in a number of places. Most hospitals and long-term
care facilities have them, as well as many doctor’s offices. You can also call
an organization called
Partnership for Caring
at 800.989.9455 and they will send you the documents
for a small fee. Or you can go to their Web site and download the documents.
Once you’ve signed the documents, make several copies, and give them to the
person you’ve chosen as your power of attorney, your doctor and anyone else
involved in your healthcare. For yourself, keep a copy that’s easy for others to
American Cancer Society; Partnership for Caring.