Don’t delay personal planning if you become seriously ill.
Being diagnosed with a serious illness can be emotionally trying—for you and your family and friends. Still, it’s important to take a few minutes and consider your personal planning options.
Every illness progresses in its own way. Some are predictable, others not so. While this uncertainty can be worrisome, it’s possible to ensure your wishes are known in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. In BC there are a few tools you can use to designate a decision maker to act on your behalf and specify which treatments or care options you will and won’t consent to.
Start by talking to your doctors and nurses about typical care plans for people who share your diagnosis. Try to get a sense of the various outcomes and care options associated with your illness.
Next, talk to someone you trust about your values. Let this person know if there is a treatment that you won’t consent to. After that, write down your preferences.
Representation Agreements and Temporary Substitute Decision Makers
When a patient is unable to speak for themselves and doesn’t have a legally designated representative, health care providers turn to a temporary substitute decision maker to choose treatment and care options. If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness, plan ahead and prepare a list of substitute decision makers while you are still capable. Then submit the list to your family doctor as well as a loved one who can share it with doctors and nurses at a hospital if you were to require a stay.
BC law dictates that care providers consult the list in a predetermined order, starting with your spouse. Next are your children older than 19, then parents, siblings, and other extended family members.
If you prefer to have someone other than your spouse be your decision maker, prepare a representation agreement to appoint that person as your legal representative.
Even if you want to designate your spouse or adult child as a temporary substitute decision maker, we recommended creating a legal representation agreement. This document allows for a smooth transition of decision-making authority and eliminates ambiguity and delays. A representation agreement is highly customizable, so you decide when it takes effect and for how long.
Whether you choose a family member or close friend to represent you, it’s essential to talk to them about your values and preferences. Make sure they understand what’s important to you.
An advance directive specifies your instructions for treatment and care directly to doctors and nurses. It functions on its own or as a complement to a representation agreement. Your doctors and nurses will follow your advance directive without consulting your representative or temporary decision maker. This ensures you get the care you need, according to your instructions—even if your representative is unavailable. An advance directive comes into effect only when you are unable to speak for yourself, and applies only to the treatment described in the advance directive.
If you require treatment or care not specified by the advance directive, your care providers will consult your representative or a temporary substitute decision maker.
One advantage of an advance directive is that it can ease the pressure of making a difficult decision for your representative or substitute decision maker. By preparing an advance directive with a qualified legal professional, you can communicate your wishes about medical interventions and long-term care, and bring peace of mind to those you are closest to.
Advance Directives and Representation Agreements
Because an advance directive is limited to the treatments and conditions outlined in the directive, it’s a good idea to also prepare a representation agreement. This way, if you need treatment that’s not covered by your advance directive, your representative can make these decisions on your behalf.
No matter which path choose—representation agreement, advance directive or a combination of both—personal planning is a worth the time and energy. Learn about your diagnosis and the care typically associated with it. Think about the treatments you will and won’t consent to, and share that with a trusted friend or family member. Then prepare a list of temporary substitute decision makers, as well as a representation agreement or advance directive to suit your situation. If you want to learn more about representation agreements, advance directives or any other personal planning document, contact us today. We can prepare planning documents to fit your needs and protect your values.
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