Shannon M. Miller, Esq.
Florida Bar Board Certified in Elder Law
The Miller Elder Law Firm
Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys
I have worked with many families who were proactive about end of life planning and the result is that they are able to have a good death, driven by their own wishes and values at the end of life. Discussing and preparing for this event while everyone is healthy helps the family make the right choices and establishes a sense of comfort and peace.
I want you to consider these simple, although not easy, steps in planning for a good death.
1. Be sure to discuss with family and loved ones how you wish to die. This is usually the first step to open the door for additional conversations that will allow you to develop the plan to ease unnecessary end of life suffering.
2. Have a good designation of healthcare surrogate. This designates the person you trust to make all health care decisions for you during any period when you cannot make decisions for yourself.
3. Have a good Living Will. A Living Will is a witnessed written document that is a toolbox for your designated healthcare surrogate. It lays out your wishes for the end of your life, whether you wish to have your life prolonged with procedures like artificial ventilation or antibiotic treatments, artificial hydration and nutrition, etc. In the alternative, it can state clearly that you do not wish to have these life prolonging measures taken, or something in between. Remember, the living will and designation of healthcare surrogate only become effective when you cannot make decisions for yourself (i.e., you are incapacitated).You can find a current version of these advance directives on our website, free of charge. The attached links will take you to these forms.
4. Discuss options for a Do Not Resuscitate Order with your physician if that is something you want. Your physician can provide important feedback for your decision, and you and your physician must both sign the Order on the appropriate Florida form for it to be effective. Leave this order on your refrigerator or taped to the bottom of your bed if you are in an ALF or nursing home.
5. Help your loved ones by having all your affairs organized and easily accessed. End of life can be difficult for you and your family; you can ease the mental stress by letting them know what’s important to you and finalizing all legal documents. Names of banks where your funds are located, professional contacts, like CPA’s, attorneys, financial advisers are important information to include, as well as locations of wills, trusts or other important estate planning documents.