When the Covid-19 pandemic hit global proportions back in March, few anticipated that it would continue to accelerate through the end of summer and into the foreseeable future. The economic impacts have been devastating and the continued loss of life is a tragedy of untold proportions. If at this point, you’re feeling desperate, you’re not alone. However important wearing a mask and practicing social distancing may be, such measures can feel futile in the face of something so big. Luckily, there’s more you can do.
Implement an Advance Healthcare Directive
An advance healthcare directive instructs your medical team on how to best to care for you should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate on your own (as so often happens when placed on a ventilator). In signing this document, you designate a trusted person familiar with your beliefs and wishes to represent you should the need arise.
Tackling this essential task won’t slow the pandemic but it will mitigate the risk you run in important ways. Experts predict a mental health crisis of staggering proportions to follow in the wake of the current crisis. None of us are immune to the stress of constant mediation with the unknown. Resting in the knowledge that you have prepared for the worst lessens this strain and frees up energy needed to attend to other challenges of the moment.
You Are Not in this Alone.
Even if you, personally, are keeping an even keel, those around you may be struggling. An advance healthcare directive assures your loved ones that no unnecessary and tragic conflict awaits them. After all, they are the people who will be burdened with making care decisions on your behalf should you fall gravely ill. Instead of clear instructions, tragedy is apt to erupt. Take, for instance, Dr. Asha Shajahan’s report on the passing of a 30-year-old patient suffering from Covid-19 in Detroit: “His father, devastated after seeing the numbers related to his condition, didn’t want any further treatment that would prolong the inevitable. His mother wanted to try everything that could possibly be done to save him.” An advance directive would have spared this young man’s parents much emotional pain.
An experienced estate planning attorney will make the process of setting up an advance healthcare directive straightforward and painless. What’s more, their input will provide critical insight into how your values and beliefs might determine the level of care you receive. Lastly, they will be able to inform you of individual requirements your estate may have and will point out any unforeseen consequences that might result from the restrictions you put in place.
Before contacting an attorney, you would be wise to sit down with your loved ones and share your thoughts on what you would like your advance healthcare directive to include. While the conversation may not be fun, failure to address essential decisions about your well-being portends far greater discomfort.
This sort of conversation is also the first step to setting up a last will and testament—another document every adult should have—and so while you’re at it, why not also address this need? Once more, an experienced attorney will happily and helpfully guide you through the process.