Advance Care Planning: Things to Remember When Planning for End-of-Life Care

Advance care planning refers to the decisions you make about the kind of healthcare you wish to receive in the event of a medical crisis like a life-threatening illness or injury. This includes sharing your wishes with your loved ones as well as writing an advance directive in accordance with state law.

This is generally referred to as a living will, and the document gives instructions to your loved ones and healthcare professionals in case you're no longer able to speak for yourself. A living will may also give some instructions following your death, such as how to dispose of your remains or whether you want your organs donated. Naturally, you'll still need to write a last will and testament to instruct how your estate will be distributed.
While death is often an uncomfortable subject to ponder, it's an inevitable part of life, and your living will is an important part of protecting your rights and having your wishes upheld. You may also leave instructions for the end of life care you'd like to receive to maintain your quality of life while dying. Here are some of the most important things to consider.

DNR Order

A do-not-resuscitate order prevents healthcare professionals from performing CPR or using electric shocks if your breathing stops or you go into cardiac arrest. A doctor can only write this order after speaking directly with your or your healthcare proxy. These orders are generally considered by those with illnesses that have no chance of improving, and the decision is made to avoid prolonging life with a limiting illness or with added injuries from CPR (broken ribs, lung collapses, etc.).
DNRs are fairly common among those in hospice care, and some facilities even require them before admission. Hospice care is the idea of providing comfort for a person at the end of their life without pursuing curative treatment, and it's becoming an increasingly popular option.

Life Support

The term life support basically refers to techniques used to keep a person alive after the failure of vital organs or body functions. For example, a person unable to breathe on their own may be placed on a mechanical ventilator. Someone unable to feed themselves may have a feeding tube inserted or receive IV fluids for hydration. Such methods are generally used to help people recover from severe illnesses and injuries.
For those unlikely to improve, life support may be seen merely as a way of prolonging the dying process. Others see it as an unnatural way of living and would prefer to die with dignity. It's important for your loved ones to know your wishes and for you to document them in case a time comes where you can no longer speak. You can also assign a trusted healthcare proxy to make these decisions on your behalf.

Financial Options

Whether you're pursuing curative treatments for a chronic illness, receiving at-home care, or living in a palliative care facility, you'll need ways to pay for it all. You may be fortunate enough to have all costs covered by your health insurance, but many plans will only cover partials costs for treatments of life-limiting illnesses. You may also be eligible for assistance programs like these resources for cancer patients, and it's always worth exploring your options.
If you have a life insurance policy, it's probably a good idea to speak with a viatical settlement broker. A viatical settlement is similar to a life settlement in that they're both the sale of a life insurance policy to a third party, but viatical settlements are specifically for people with chronic illnesses and short life expectancies. To qualify for a viatical settlement, you'll need to meet the following criteria.
  • A life expectancy of two-to-four years
  • A life insurance policy that's been active for at least two years
  • A value of at least $100,000 on the life insurance policy
If you can meet these requirements, you can complete a viatical settlement transaction. A major benefit is that the money is tax-free, unlike with a life settlement, and you can receive it in just a few days. Best of all, there are no restrictions on how you use your settlement, so it can go toward healthcare, your family, or other ways to increase your quality of life. 

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