Health Matters Part 2: Legal Health Documents

Health Matters: Legal DocumentsPin
Health Matters: Legal Documents

Updated: 08/08/2023

The Why of Health Legal Documents

Do you feel overwhelmed when the subject of wills, and healthcare legal documents comes up? Do you avoid the subject?

I believe that advance planning is really important for our peace-of-mind. Creating them gives us the opportunity to be clear about what is important to ourselves and our family. If we can put aside the awkwardness of it and think about the end of our life now, when we are not overwhelmed with a health crisis, we can think more clearly about what we want and don’t want when the time comes.

Also, you don’t have to stress over making these documents perfect. You can change them or revoke them at any time. What’s important is to start. So let’s pull up our grown-up pants and explore this world of legal documents.

Types of Legal Documents

We hear words like wills, living wills, and power of attorneys. Unless you’re a legal professional, we need some definitions. This article explains the different types of Power of Attorney: What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

This article explains what a will is: Will vs. Trust: Cost, Process and Uses

Lastly, check out this article for information on living wills, and health care directives: Living wills and advance directives for medical decisions

Pain Relief & Living Wills

I recently learned something very important about Living Wills. As you create a Living Will, you’ll be asked about whether or not you want artificial sources of fluids and/or nutrition through a feeding tube or an intravenous tube (IV). You will also be asked about pain control.

If you don’t want artificial fluids or nutrition, but do want pain control, make sure you specify that you do want intravenous pain medication. End-of-life pain control when you’re in a hospital is most often supplied in small amounts of intravenous fluids through an IV.

End-of-life pain control is offered this way, because many people are unable to swallow pills or liquids, and using injections inflicts pain every time they’re given. Having an IV drip of pain medicine provides continuous pain control. Also, there can be unintended delays in getting injections every 4-6 hours. Because of these reasons, injections aren’t used for end-of-life pain control.

If you don’t specify that IV pain medication is what you want at end-of-life, it can cause problems for family and health care providers to figure out what you actually wanted if you have also chosen not to have artificial fluids.

In some cases, this conflict can lead to not getting the pain relief you want.

How To Create Them

Every legal professional will tell you to contact a lawyer for creating these documents, so they are customized for your situation. However, lawyers are expensive and sometimes physically getting to one may be impossible. Thankfully, today, there are many online legal services available.

I have used Legal Zoom to create my Will and Living Will. If your financial situation is uncomplicated and your money is limited, I highly recommend them. Their simplest will costs $89.

If this is still too much money, you can search for low-cost services in your area. You can search your local Neighborhood Legal Services Association, Area Agency on Aging, local law schools, local community law clinics, etc. Snoop around in your community and I bet you’ll find resources to help you with this task.

Five Wishes Living Will

I recently ran across an intriguing Living Will document called Five Wishes.

  • Wish 1 is who you want to make health care decisions for you when you cannot.
  • Wish 2 is what kind of medical treatment you want.
  • Wish 3 is for how comfortable you want to be at the end of your life.
  • Wish 4 is how you wish to be treated by people.
  • Wish 5 is what you want your loved ones to know.

This document costs $5 for the form and takes the place of a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney. It is accepted in 42 states as a valid Living Will. What I really like about it, is that it includes “heart and soul” issues as well as medical. It also feels more user friendly and less overwhelming than most legal documents.

In Closing

Finally, I created a will, living will, and healthcare power of attorney documents about 10 years ago. My children are older now and I need to change some things, so I’ll be going through this process again. When I made my will 10 years ago, it really gave me peace of mind that my children would be cared for if anything happened to me. Give yourself that gift! 

Disclosure: I am not a legal professional. Please do not assume that this information is correct for your situation or state. Consult resources in your location to comply with local laws and to make sure these documents are done correctly.

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By Kathryn

I'm a writer, disabled registered nurse, and former home school parent of 6 children ages 19 to 32. I'm also a domestic abuse survivor.

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