Completing a Living Will

I’ve had a disturbing conversation with my physician. Her office asked me to complete a living will. But when I tried to talk with her about my preferences, she really didn’t have the time or interest to discuss them. I am in good health and nearly 80 years old, but I am worried that the doctor may not be able to see me through some difficult times ahead. Can you comment?

Although nearly all doctors agree that they should talk with patients about their preferences for end-of-life care, most find it hard to start the conversation, and many report not being sure of what to say. Medicare has begun to reimburse physicians for talking with patients about such things as hospice care, do-not-resuscitate orders and living wills, which increases the likelihood that such a conversation can be held during an appointment. However, many physicians worry that such a discussion may cause a patient to worry that the doctor is giving up on him or her. That said, it is in your best interest to complete your advance directives — the forms, including a living will, provided by the hospital — and to have this challenging conversation with those intimates who will provide your care when the time comes. Once those who love you know your wishes, they will have the legal ability to advocate for you during your end-of-life care. Many people say they would rather not have such a conversation, but all agree that it is necessary, and it is a relief once your wishes are clear and documented.

Want to learn more about advance directives? Read “Advance Directives and Estate Planning.”

Our expert: Jackson Rainer is a board-certified clinical psychologist who practices with the Care and Counseling Center in Decatur, Georgia, helping people living with chronic illnesses.

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