Welcome to House of Light, a blog produced and managed by the staff of Casa de la Luz Hospice. Casa de la Luz ("house of light" in Spanish) is a locally owned and operated hospice, serving the city and surrounding communities of Tucson, Arizona. Through this blog, we hope to offer education, information, and support about caregiving and hospice care to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. For more information, visit the contact us page.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Expressing My Wishes Through a Living Will

I’m a control freak.  Sure, I trust my doctor.  He listens to my concerns, explains my options, along with his recommendations and respects my choices.  But he’s just one doctor.  In a hospital there are dozens of doctors.  In Arizona, there are thousands of lawyers.  Arizona law makes my 87-year-old mother who lives in West Virginia my medical surrogate.  I can’t in good conscience leave her in a position where she may have to sign papers to allow my death.

Since I want to be in control, even if I’m unconscious, anesthetized, or comatose, I have a living will and a medical power of attorney (MPOA).  Actually, I have two.  Why two MPOAs?  Both are dear and trusted friends.  One is a registered nurse, and the other has been a friend for almost 30 years.  They have seen me through sickness and surgery, and I know that they will care for me no matter what.

 They, along with my doctor, are my team.  Guided by my living will, they will speak for me when I cannot speak for myself. 

It doesn’t matter what my living will says—do I want everything done or not, do I want a feeding tube or not.  The point is that my living will is a legal document expressing my wishes for my health care.  I gave copies to my doctor and to Karen and Sue, my MPOAs.  They all know what my wishes are and with my living will they have the legal power to advocate for me when I cannot advocate for myself.

I cannot imagine why anyone would not want to have a living will.  People frequently make statements about how they want to live, or be allowed to die, or pursue every health care option.  They know what they want.  So why not have a legal document stating just that?

It’s easy. The Casa de la Luz Foundation provides hard copies of the Five Wishes, a legally recognized advance directive document in Arizona, or if you prefer, the Foundation has a link to an online version of the Five Wishes. You can also download and fill out a state advance directive through NHPCO’s Caring Connections website. Arizona also has an Advance Directive Registry, free for individuals who wish to register and store their directive. The registry allows loved ones or health care providers opportunity to look up your directives.

So, be a control freak like me.  Create your living will, and make your wishes known.

By Mary Toren, RN

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