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The Importance of End of Life Planning

ElderLaw

While no one ever wakes up and decides that today sounds like a great day to decide how they want to pass away, or that today seems like a pleasant day to discuss end of life decisions with their elderly loved ones, the time eventually comes when these decisions must be made. Planning for end of life care is an important part of any estate plan, and an experienced Walnut Grove estate planning attorney can help you decide what is right for you and your loved ones in the event that you or they become, or currently are, terminally ill.

What is End of Life Planning?

According to research, modern medicine has often failed to “recognize the inevitability of disease progression despite aggressive medical management” and as a result adequate supportive care often gets ignored. Spending the last days, weeks, or even months in an ICU hospital bed is not how most people want to pass away. The constant beeping of medical equipment; smell of sanitized everything; blinding fluorescent lights; bland hospital food; and the never ending coming and going of nurses, doctors, and technicians from the room is more than unpleasant—it causes disorientation, insomnia, severe depression, and hallucinations, and it exacerbates dementia. Passing away peacefully at home under the eyes of loved ones instead of strangers, which may mean that the terminally ill patient goes into hospice care, is one aspect of end of life planning. Determining one’s own fate, whether it is deciding that they do not want CPR, or ruling out a feeding tube, gives power back to the powerless.

End of Life Decisions

Unless otherwise stated in a valid legal document, hospitals and physicians will do everything in their power to keep a patient alive for as long as possible. End of life planning can stop the following treatments from happening, effectively ending their life on their own terms:

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids—Given to keep the patient alive and hydrated when they are unable to drink on their own;
  • Tube Feeding—Used when the patient cannot eat by themselves, often due to coma;
  • Ventilation—Used to provide oxygen to lungs that do not work themselves, possibly due to coma;
  • CPR or Defibrillator—Used to start the patient’s heart if it stops. A DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order only prevents medical workers from using a ventilator and CPR/defibrillation, according to the National Institute on Aging;
  • Surgery—A patient can opt out of life saving or life-lengthening surgery; and
  • Dialysis—Used to clean and filter the blood when kidneys have failed.

Other End of Life Decisions 

End of life planning may also mean considering the following:

  • Turning Off ICDs—Patients with Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) can have them turned off when life support is no longer desired;
  • Palliative Care or Comfort Care—Pain medication and comfort management, as opposed to treatment designed to keep the patient alive. Palliative care can be provided in junction with traditional medical treatments, such as surgery and placement of pacemakers;
  • Hospice Care—Comfort care after treatment of the underlying illness has stopped; and
  • Organ Donation—Organs, tissue, and other body parts can be donated to others, or donated to research.

Contact a Walnut Creek Estate Planning Attorney Today

Your own final days may be years or decades away, but the time to create an end of life plan is now, before it is too late and your decision making capabilities are taken away. The same is true if you are helping your elderly parent create an end of life plan or Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order—do not wait until it is too late; there is no better time than now. Call the Walnut Creek estate planning lawyers at Feldman Law Group today at 925-283-6691 to schedule a free consultation.

Resources:

nia.nih.gov/health/understanding-healthcare-decisions-end-life

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399266/#!po=80.5556

https://www.feldmanlawgroup.com/important-legal-strategies-for-encountering-a-major-health-event/

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