Critter Corner: Talking With a Loved One About Their Health Care Wishes in Advance

Dear Angel,

I am planning on getting my incapacity planning documents in order soon and would like to talk to my brother about being my health care agent. What are some of the topics I should think about prior to getting the documents done and things I should discuss with him in advance? Thanks for your help!

N. Advanns

Dear N. Advanns,

It is wise to think about and talk with the person you are considering to be your health care agent in advance about what medical treatments and/or interventions you would want and why you feel that way. This will help both of you understand your wishes and some of the things that will be contained in your documents.

To help you begin, here are some examples of questions you can think about and discuss. Remember, advance care planning is a process, not something that gets done all at once. Consider the following:

  • Is your goal to prolong your life by all medically effective means?
  • Is your goal to treat medical conditions, but avoid extreme measures?
  • Is your goal to maximize your comfort?
  • Is your goal to maintain quality of life, including the ability to do tasks you enjoy?
  • Are there certain situations in which you would not want a lot of medical treatment?
  • How much are you willing to go through to extend your life?
  • What are your feelings about hospice and palliative care?
  • Would you be interested in hospice care at the end of your life?
  • What are some things that would make the end of your life most peaceful?
  • What are your biggest concerns or fears about the end of your life?
  • How important is it for you to be able to take care of yourself at the end of your life?

It may also be helpful to consider specific treatments that you may or may not want to receive and the circumstances when you would or wouldn’t want to receive them. These treatments / interventions can include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), chest compressions, electric shocks (defibrillation), breathing tubes and mechanical ventilation, kidney dialysis, blood transfusions, antibiotics, and many other types of treatments and interventions.

Also think about artificial hydration and nutrition, which adds to or replaces normal eating and drinking (i.e. feeding tubes). Artificial hydration and nutrition can be used if you’re unable to eat or drink enough while you’re getting treatment that might help you recover. It can also be used to keep your body alive if you are unconscious and there is very little chance you will become conscious again.

Be sure to share today’s newsletter article about what being a health care agent entails with your brother, as he is considering the role.

Hope this helps,


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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