I recently lost a close family member. I write this not for sympathy or to sell something, but to point out two observations that became very apparent through this process.
The first is the care, compassion, and dedication shown by the medical staff – from attending physicians, to residents, to nurses, to technicians, to housekeeping. Virtually, everyone we came in contact with had a kind word, a knowing glance, or obvious skill – usually all three.
As an attorney, I could only watch helplessly as these medical professionals deftly practiced their crafts in the face of life and death consequences. Yet, they always remained cognizant of the human element; for both patient and family alike. As the outlook for my family member dimmed, my appreciation and respect for these medical professionals grew.
One area where I could be of service arose toward the end of the experience. When it became clear that the end was in sight, the hospital needed to ensure that they understood my family member’s final wishes if the situation demanded it. In other words, were advance directives, a living will, and a health care power of attorney in place?
While you might think that an attorney’s relatives would be all set in that department, you’d be wrong. Some members of my family apparently view the creation of a will and related documents as tantamount to a written invitation for Death to come knocking. Fortunately, when the time came, I was able to quickly prepare the documents, with only one week to spare.
While I know that many people, whether through superstition or busy lives, don’t have these documents prepared, I also know that not everyone has a lawyer in the family to prepare them quickly. Trust me, the last thing you want to do with a relative in the hospital is to scramble around trying to get final directives in order.
So, the purpose of my article is this: have a living will, health care power of attorney, general power of attorney, and will prepared by a competent professional. Yes, it is an expense, but the stress, aggravation, and worry that you will save your relatives is immeasurable. Make it a point to get these done as soon as you can, and I hope it is a long time before you ever need them.