Advanced directives – how to make it happen

I am relieved to say that my affairs are all in order should I not make it through the weekend.  If I do mysteriously disappear in the next week or so, there are three people that the police should suspect and investigate.  Two are in cahoots – my husband and my oldest daughter.  I still have a headache from the “accident” that happened this weekend.  My daughter and I were (stupidly) sitting in the very back of our ridiculously large and environmentally unsound SUV.  My husband, who claims to have been momentarily “distracted” drove off the road into a ditch causing me to bounce up and hit my head on the roof.  It occurred to me as I was reviewing the signs and symptoms of bleeding on the brain that my daughter (oddly) was still wearing her ski helmet – things that make you go hmmm?  The other suspect is a woman who I have never seen but based on her voice and demeanor, I assume she weighs about 250 (all muscle), sports lots of body art and smokes 2-3 packs of Marlboros a day.  She is the dispatcher for a towing company that I needed yesterday and she was not very nice to me.  Usually not one for confrontation, I bravely said, “I am not sure why you are being so mean and I would appreciate it if you would stop talking to me like this.”  She replied with an evil laugh.  She knows where I live.  I’m scared.  Mean people suck.

Enough about my inevitable demise.  Here is how to get your advanced directives done.

1.  If you have a lawyer who does your regular will, talk to him or her.  They will make it very easy for you.

2.  If you don’t have a lawyer, it is still very easy.  Each state has its own forms for living wills and health care proxy assignments.  Search “living will and the state you live in” and you will find free downloads.   For example, if you live in New York, the NY Bar Association provides printable forms with easy instructions.

3.  Very simply, write down your health care proxy on a piece of paper and have it witnessed by someone else or, if you think it will be contested by disgruntled family members, have it notarized.  If you choose to just name someone to make decisions for you, I need to reiterate what I wrote yesterday.  Don’t avoid the hard conversation.  Sit down with whomever you have chosen and devote a little time to discussing exactly what you would want in the case of …  Do this for them so that should the worst happen, they don’t have to tack guilt onto their grief.

4.  Once you have something on paper, make copies.  Give one to your physician or physicians.  Give one to your health care proxy and keep one in an accessible place (not a safe that no one can get to.)  I like to keep a couple more in visible places around the house as a reminder to live for the moment.

5.  I need to stress how important it is to convince the people you love to have an advanced directive.  If your parents or grandparents are living and healthy, have the conversation now.  Make it easy for them.  Bring the forms and a pen to the table.  Believe me, it becomes much more difficult to say the words when someone is ill.  It is often received as, “We know you are going to die soon.  Maybe you should stop shopping at Costco.”  If they are hesitant or dismissive, tell them that they are doing it for you.  If they love you and care about you, they will do it.  If they don’t, screw them.  I imagine that then you won’t have such a hard time with their end of life decisions.

I am happy this week is over, as it was mildly depressing.  My apologies but it suited my mood with all this snow and school closings.  With all my negativity, it is no wonder there are people out to get me.  Maybe we should all put the wine on hold and have a martini this weekend — it worked for me on Wednesday night.   Nothing like a bottle of Ketel One and a jar of olives to put a smile on your face and chill out your paranoia.

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