Step 3: Communicating With Others


Now that you are familiar with a few of the issues you might need to think about, you should consider the people with whom you can begin your life care planning conversations. Your medical care is about you – so you should start the conversations with those who can help you consider what medical treatments you might want or not want if you become incapacitated, or as you approach the end of your life. Perhaps they are waiting for you to begin the discussions – so start now! 
The information below may be helpful to you but is not a substitute for legal advice.
(Content is courtesy of the
Office of the Attorney General of Arizona, Mark Brnovich.) 
 

1  YOUR HEALTH CARE REPRESENTATIVE

Think about who you might want as your representative to make decisions for you if you become unable to do so for yourself. This should be a person you trust to have your interests at heart – someone who can make decisions for you in a manner that is consistent with your preferences, even if he or she disagrees.

Be sure that you speak with your representative about your choices, so that he or she can make medical decisions on your behalf in the way you would want. This is the only way you will get the benefit of having your “substituted judgment” used rather than your representative or physician’s evaluation of what is in your “best interests.” Remember, your representative may be asked to make many medical decisions for you if you are no longer competent to or cannot communicate your wishes. These are not only ultimate “life and death, turn-off-the-machine decisions,” but also decisions about day-to-day medical care, placement in a nursing facility or hospital, administration of certain medication, etc.


2  YOUR SPOUSE, CHILDREN, OTHER RELATIVES, AND CLOSE FRIENDS

Consider sharing your thoughts about some or all of the above issues with your spouse and children and whoever is closest to you and most likely to be affected emotionally or otherwise by your medical condition and the decisions that must be made. Sometimes problems arise because family members do not understand what the patient would want in a given situation, or they disagree about what treatment is best for the patient. Although the designated representative is legally empowered to make decisions on behalf of the patient, uncertainties can raise concerns for the treating physicians and can result in problems, delays, misunderstandings, and even court proceedings.

 

This is why it is important that you discuss your beliefs, values and preferences about medical care not only with the person you choose as your health care representative but also with family, relatives, and close friends. This will give them an opportunity to learn from you what medical care you want and will make decisions easier for your representative and your physicians should the time come when you cannot make medical decisions for yourself.


3  YOUR DOCTOR, CLERGYPERSON AND OTHERS

You can get medical information about many issues related to the Life Care Planning forms, but only your doctor can give you the personal medical advice you need to make the best choices for you. Do not hesitate to talk with your doctor about these forms and ask for your doctor’s opinion about what is best for you.

You may have religious beliefs that influence your choices. Discuss your choices with your clergyperson. You can also learn more about the positions of different faiths from religious magazines, newspapers, or Internet web pages published by various faith groups.

Finally, a lawyer, accountant, banker, or others with whom you have a relationship may also have advice for you about life care planning and choices that are best for you.