Courtesy of California Attorney General's website
We plan for the best life possible. Yet, all too often in this planning, we put off thinking out our final chapter for living well with peace of mind and without crisis.
Consider this: Research shows that 70 percent of Americans would prefer to be at home with loved ones in their final days, yet only about 25 percent die at home. And, the most requested advice from legal aid is how to deal with end-of-life issues - amidst a family crisis.
If we can break this taboo, many people will be able to avoid dying alone, in pain, and in unfamiliar institutional settings. Many families can avoid regrets, unresolved issues, and being impoverished by end-of-life care.
To help you tackle this important planning for the best possible life, we offer a checklist and resource guide. This material is informational only and not intended as legal advice. If you have questions, please consult with your clinician, lawyer, or other appropriate person.
Advance Health Care Directive Checklist
The material prepared for this checklist is intended as informational only and not as legal advice. "If you are unsure of your options or have questions, we suggest that you talk with your clinician, your lawyer, and other trusted advisors."
Gather Information For Decision Making.
Your clinician is a good place to start for understanding your options on health care treatment at the end of life. In addition, many organizations have information that may be useful.
Discuss Your End-of-Life Decisions With Key People.
Talk about your decisions with your family, clinician, and others who are close to you. Some questions to consider for discussion:
- What is important to you when you are dying?
- Are there specific medical treatments you especially want or do not want?
- When you are dying, do you want to be in a nursing home, hospital, or at home?
- What are the options in Palliative Care/Pain Management and Hospice Care?
Prepare Your Advance Care Directive Form. Under state law, you have a legal right to express your health care wishes and to have them considered in situations when you are unable to make these decisions yourself. California consolidated various earlier forms used to indicate health care preferences into one Advance Care Directive. All valid health care directives executed before July 1, 2000, can remain in effect under California Probate Code section 4701. Earlier forms included the Natural Death Act Declaration, Directive to Physicians, and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
While state law requires certain provisions to appear in your health care directive, there is no single form in use to document your wishes. View California Probate Code Sample Form, pdf.
A wide array of resources are available on advanced health care directives, including FAQs provided by health and hospice care providers such as the California Medical Association.
Designate a Person To Carry out Wishes.
Select who should handle your healthcare choices and discuss the matter with them. You could name a spouse, relative, or other agent.
Inform Key People Of Your Preferences.
Notify your clinician, family, and close friends about your end-of-life preferences. Keep a copy of your signed and completed advance health care directive safe and accessible. This will help ensure that your wishes will be known at the critical time and carried out. Give a copy of your form to:
- The person you appoint as your agent and any alternate designated agents
- Your physician
- Your healthcare providers
- The healthcare institution that is providing your care
- Family members
- Another responsible person who is likely to be called if there is a medical emergency
Read more about Hospice and a wealth of other end-of-life resources at the California Attorney General's website.