Futterman, Lanza & Pasculli, LLP

Planning advance health care directives before it is too late

Aging residents of New York may believe, like most people, that there will always be time to plan for the future. Many know that preparing advance health care directives is important, but taking time out of the present to deal with potentially unpleasant issues of the future is not an inviting prospect. However, there will likely come a time when, if certain eventualities have not been carefully planned out ahead of time, that medical decisions may be made on the person's behalf that run contrary to what the individual would have wanted.

For example, a 2013 study showed quite a division of opinions when it came to end-of-life care. Among the respondents, over 30 percent of individuals believed everything should be done to save their life under any circumstances; however, almost 70 percent felt the opposite, that medical intervention should only go so far to save a life. But if these personal beliefs have not been set down in writing and communicated to others, an individual who was suddenly unable to communicate his or her desires would have no control over the decisions that must be made. 

Despite this, that same study found that only 37 percent of individuals have made any plans for documenting their wishes regarding such issues. This documentation, sometimes referred to as an advance health care directive or a living will, allows individuals to outline their wishes in specific potential end-of-life scenarios while they are still able to convey their desires. Just as important as legally recording these wishes can be clearly communicating them to close family and loved ones.

Delaying these decisions until it is too late not only means a loss of self-determination for the individual, but may also mean additional stress and uncertainty for loved ones. Communication and preparation now may potentially save a lot of grief later. A New York elder law attorney can offer guidance on drafting formal advance health care directives to allow for the designation of an agent to act on behalf of the client in specified circumstances. Aging residents of New York who may have been putting off these decisions may wish to consider addressing them before it is too late.

Source: cumberlink.com, "Elder Care: 'It always seems too early, until it's too late'", Putting Them, April 20, 2017

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