How sure are you that your wishes will be followed in an emergency situation?
This won't be an easy conversation.
But at some point, your age or medical condition might make you consider getting a "do not resuscitate" (DNR) order.
A DNR form is a written order from a doctor that instructs health care providers not to carry out cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You receive CPR when your blood flow or breathing stops. It includes manual mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest presses, and it can also include electric shocks to the heart, breathing tube insertions, or some medications.
It's not standard procedure for paramedics to ask if you have a DNR. And if you do, this could mean you get life-saving interventions when you don't want them.
We spoke with a longtime paramedic who told us that family members will usually inform paramedics about a DNR when they arrive, or they'll ask the person in distress if necessary.
But paramedics have very limited time to get in and save a patient – they don't have time to pore over a complex legal document.
He suggests folks keep a copy of their DNR in a highly visible area, like right by the front door... But sometimes paramedics may not see it and have to act quickly. So he also suggests getting a DNR medical-alert bracelet, which is legally the same as a written DNR order in several states.
And here's the thing – most folks fail to have this conversation with their spouses until after something awful happens.
That's why we encourage our readers every year to take some time when the family gathers to discuss the most uncomfortable of topics... end-of-life decisions.
One topic everyone should review, regardless of age, is what you would like done in the event of a medical emergency. This covers everything from different medical directives to appointing someone to advocate on your behalf.
Here's a breakdown of the different types of medical directives out there – keep in mind, these are separate from your will, or a trust that deals with what happens to your estate after you die.
Types of Health Care Directives
1) Living Will. A living will is a legal document that explains what life-saving measures you do or do not want if you are unable to make decisions due to a health crisis. This includes things like life support.
For example, if you are in a coma, do you want to be on a respirator or feeding tube? A living will also covers whether or not you want to donate any part of your body after you die.
Living wills, also called health care declarations or health care directives, should be on file with your family, lawyer, and doctor.
2) DNR. A DNR is separate from a living will. It should be on file with your doctor, and your loved ones should also have a copy. Some people opt for a medical-alert bracelet with the DNR information on it in the case of an emergency. If this is something you're interested in getting, please check your individual state's laws to see if this is a legal option.
3) Advance Health Care Directive. This kind of directive includes appointing someone (typically a family member) to act as a health care advocate on your behalf should you become unable to make decisions. You might also see them referred to as a "health care proxy" or someone with your "durable power of attorney for health care."
An advanced health care directive typically combines the living will information with the designation of this advocate.
4) Physician's Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Finally, there's the Physician's Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). These forms combine DNRs and living wills. They need to be signed by a medical professional just like a DNR, but they outline more of your wishes, including things like feeding tubes, life support, and palliative care.
Discussing medical decisions for the end of your life sounds difficult, but it will make the burden much easier on you and your family if you start talking now.
And forms like living wills are only one part of the conversation. In the latest issue of Retirement Millionaire, I covered even more topics for you and your loved ones to talk about and understand.
Use the time together this holiday season to go over your wishes. It might cause some pain now, but the peace of mind your family will have later on is the greatest gift you can give them.
Those who are part of the Retirement Millionaire Lifetime Partnership have full access to my holiday issue right here. Lifetime subscribers also receive monthly Uncut podcasts where I discuss each Retirement Millionaire issue in greater depth. And, every three months, I send one hand-picked covered-call trade from my options-trading service Retirement Trader.
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What We're Reading...
- Legal-resource website Nolo breaks down all the variations of health care directives.
- Something different: How close is your meal to what was served at the first Thanksgiving?
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
November 22, 2016