5 Communities Nearby

Browse by State

What is a Living Will?

Finances | February 1, 2023

Senior couple planning their living wills together

When you first hear the term living will, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to assume it’s a document similar to a last will and testament. In actuality, these two sets of instructions work to ensure very different end-of-life wishes. While a last will and testament ensure an individual’s property is settled in the manner they desire after their passing, a living will for seniors allows them to state their wishes for end-of-life medical care.

Sometimes referred to as a directive to physicians or advance directive, a living will instruct family members, caregivers, and healthcare professionals what type of treatment a person wants if they are no longer able to communicate their wishes. If you’re helping a parent with their estate planning, or even drafting your own, a living will can be an invaluable asset. By planning ahead, an individual can minimize the decision-making burden put on family members and caregivers while still ensuring they receive the medical care they desire.

How Do Living Wills Work?

In the U.S., the requirements and procedures to ensure a living will is valid and legally binding differ from state to state. Given that the process for creating these legal documents is dependent on where someone lives, it’s important to know what their state requires regarding signatures, witnesses, and notarization before getting started.

Once signed, a living will for seniors can take effect at any time. Even when in effect, however, doctors will prioritize personal communication, not a living will, for as long as possible. An advance directive like a living will only influence an individual’s medical treatment when it has been determined that the individual can no longer communicate their medical wishes.

Once a living will has been created, an individual should:

  • Keep the original document in a secure, accessible location.
  • Give a copy to their doctor.
  • Give a copy to their health care agent.
  • Make sure family members and caretakers are aware of their health care wishes.
  • Consider carrying documentation that indicates they have a living will.

What Do You Include in a Living Will?

There are a number of potential end-of-life medical treatments that often get addressed in a living will. Pain management, organ donation, and palliative care are among some of the more common treatments you will find in these documents. Doctors will often suggest that a living will cover the following treatments:

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) | Do they want CPR to be administered to restart their heart if it stops beating?
  • Mechanical Ventilation | Do they want assistance breathing if they are unable to breathe on their own?
  • Tube Feeding | Do they want assistance supplying their body with fluid and nutrients if they are no longer able to eat, and if so for how long?
  • Dialysis | If their kidneys no longer function, do they want to undergo dialysis treatment? How long would they want to continue with the treatment?
  • Palliative Care | What medical interventions do they want utilized to keep them comfortable? This could include pain medications, avoiding invasive tests or treatments, and even choosing to die at home.
  • Organ and Tissue Donation | Do they understand and agree with the temporary interventions that may occur if they choose to be an organ donor?
  • Donating Their Body | Do they want their entire body donated to a local medical school, university, or donation program for research?

When going through the process of documenting someone’s wishes for each end-of-life treatment, it is important to focus on the role each intervention would play in that individual’s overall quality of life. Do they want treatment to extend their life no matter the situation? Do they want treatment only if there is a potential solution? How long do they want to receive certain treatments? These are all questions that should be considered before drafting a living will.

Can a Living Will be Changed?

Our lives can change at any time. New health diagnoses, living situations, and medical advancements may impact how someone views certain end-of-life treatments. Luckily, living wills can be adjusted at any time to accommodate an individual’s evolving wishes.

Individuals will want to review and revise their living will when one of the following situations occurs:

  • They have received a new diagnosis.
  • They have had a change in marital status.
  • It has been over 10 years since their original living will was created.

If an individual does choose to revise their living will, it is important to remember to check specific state requirements. This will ensure the revised will is legally binding and allowed to replace any previously submitted versions.

How to Plan for the Unknown

Whether you’re helping your parents with their senior journey or navigating your own, it isn’t always easy to traverse the complexities of later life and plan for the unknown. Trying to determine the right senior living solution? National Church Residences takes an individual approach to support seniors and help them live a healthier, more satisfying lifestyle. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

Keep on Reading

An elderly woman researching and reviewing legal documents for seniors

January 24, 2023 - Finances

Important Legal Documents for Seniors: A Financial Checklist for Aging Parents

As your loved one ages, it’s essential to manage their affairs with a financial checklist. Here are some important legal documents for seniors.

Senior couple planning their living wills together

February 1, 2023 - Finances

What is a Living Will?

Learn how a living will can help ensure seniors receive their desired end-of-life medical care.

An adult caregiver going over a checklist for taking over his parents’ finances.

February 1, 2023 - Finances

How To Handle Finances for Elderly Parents

Over time, your parents may need assistance managing their financial affairs. Learn how you can help handle finances as your parents grow older.

Search All Communities

Browse by State
back to top button

Copyright © 2024 National Church Residences. All rights reserved.

National Church Residences does not discriminate against individuals based on race, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, payment source, or any other class protected by applicable law, whether in employment or its activities, programs, or services. National Church Residences also does not discriminate based on age, except as required by government entitlements or permitted by applicable law for seniors.