By Patrick J. Kelleher, Esq., ELDERLAWCARE.COM
In this Covid-19 epidemic, a wrenching question especially demands an answer: if you or someone you love is taken down into life-threatening illness, how far would you want extreme life-prolonging measures to be tried? I previously wrote about this and coined end-of-life incapacity planning as the “Big 6 Disability Planning” that you can read more about at www.elderlawcare.com under the blog tab. You can also read about the “Big 6” in my book, “How To Avoid the Four-Headed Monster of Estate Planning and Elder Law,” on Amazon.
For those of us who are particularly vulnerable—seniors, individuals with compromised immune systems, those who are already struggling with medical conditions—this question is particularly stark. Many people are familiar with DNR orders—“Do not resuscitate.” These are intended for cardiac arrest. The threats posed by the current virus, though, more often implicate breathing problems. The longer time spent on a ventilator, the greater the chances of permanent damage, disability or death .
Many are dying alone, without their loved ones present. The New York Times recently reported on a particularly heartbreaking case. Most people over 60 with a serious illness say they would prefer to be kept in comfort at the end, even if that care shortens life. But where to draw the line? How much time alive would you be willing to sacrifice to decline aggressive treatment and possibly die sooner? The need to provide at least some answers is important not just for you—clinicians and caregivers need guidance, too.
A 2017 study showed that approximately two-thirds of Americans had neglected to provide prior guidance by creating advance health-care directives, such as health care powers of attorney and living wills. Back then, most of us could not have imagined being in an epidemic like the one now. Even if you or your loved ones have already done the responsible thing and created advance directives, now is the time to review those documents to make sure they reflect what you want under current conditions.
Health-care providers are ethically obligated to do everything feasible to keep us alive. If we have no advance directives in place, the system will take over, and families can end up in long-lasting anguish for having had to be the ones to make the final call. Don’t let that happen. Think through the question for yourself and talk with a person whom you trust to make that decision for you, if need be.
Call us for your advance health-care directives—and may you and yours not need them for a good long while!
To learn more, watch our next free educational virtual, on-demand estate planning and elder law webinar at www.elderlawcare.com. Contact our friendly elder law care team at 781-871-7526 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register for the next webinar, as we fill up quickly.
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About the Author: Patrick Kelleher is an author and Estate Planning & Elder Law attorney and founder of the Elder Law Care Learning center in Hanover, Massachusetts. Patrick has been teaching free educational workshops for over 10 years at his learning center and in surrounding communities. Learn more at elderlawcare.com or follow Patrick Kelleher on Facebook because you will learn a lot! His offices are in Hanover and Quincy. You can find Patrick’s new book “How to Avoid the Four-Headed Monster” of Estate Planning & Elder Law on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/How-Avoid-Four-Headed-Monster-Financial-ebook/dp/B084MB96SK
Our Elder Law Care Team (www.elderlawcare.com) serves families in Boston, Milton, Canton, Randolph, Dedham, Norwood, Westwood, Quincy, Weymouth, Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham, Norwell, Hanover, Hanson, Marshfield, Duxbury, Pembroke, Scituate, Hull, Cohasset, Abington, Rockland, Holbrook, Kingston, Carver, Plympton, Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Plymouth, Barnstable, Sandwich, Wareham, Pinehills, Sharon, Avon, Brockton, Easton, Mansfield, Franklin, Newton, Wellesley, Needham, Bedford, Concord, Lexington including Suffolk County, Norfolk County, Plymouth County, Barnstable County, Bristol County, Middlesex County, Essex County, South Shore, North Shore, MetroWest suburbs, Cape Cod and surrounding communities.
Reprinted from the June edition of the South Shore Senior News June 2020 edition