Important Papers that No One Wants to Talk About

When it comes time to fill out certain paperwork it seems like there’s always at least one involved party hesitating. Living Wills, Advanced Directives, and DNR Orders are all important documents, and they can all put you into an awkward conversation.

Whether the discomfort comes from a child that doesn’t want to think of their parents being in a situation that makes these necessary, or from an aging adult that isn’t ready to talk about the scenarios these might apply to. But these documents are necessary conversations. Don’t let this get lost amid all of the other things you’re juggling.

The first part of preparing for these conversations is knowing the difference between the documents.

Living Will

This outlines the subject’s desires for medical care in case they are unable to express their desires themselves. This can take a lot of burden off of family members in the case of an emergency by directly stating what their loved one wanted to be done. These are written directions stating the medical wishes of the subject and doctors will stick to them when a medical situation comes up.

Advance Directive

This names a specific person as an agent on behalf of the subject. This person will have the power to make decisions about medical care even if they haven’t been outlined prior to the situation. In the case of an emergency, the agent would be able to make important decisions for them.


Do Not Resuscitate orders are put in place when a patient decides that they don’t want extreme life-saving measures to be taken if their quality of life will be compromised. In some cases, this could simply mean that CPR is off limits if the heart stops beating or breathing is arrested. Carefully read each DNR before you sign it so that you know exactly what you’re requesting. Something else to keep in mind is that hospital DNR’s can be different from other DNR’s so if you sign one in the hospital it may not apply at home.

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re making huge decisions for your loved ones. One of the biggest considerations should be what they would want in this situation. If you don’t talk about the possibilities, then you’ll never be able to answer that. Open the conversations simply and respectfully – make sure that they know you have their best interests in mind and really want to make certain that their wishes are followed no matter the situation.

Some questions to ask your loved ones when talking about these documents -

  • How do you define “quality of life”?
  • What do you consider to be a life for you?
  • What level of disability are you willing to adapt to?
  • What level of discomfort is your limit?
  • Would you consider the use of an artificial breathing machine?
  • How do you define “terminal”?

Be aware that it’s not uncommon for medical professionals or family members to act against these directives. Information is not always available to the doctors at the time care is being given and they will almost always do everything in their power to save a life. If your loved one has scheduled a procedure make sure that the medical team knows about any applicable documents ahead of time so these mistakes can be avoided. It’s also important for family members to be made aware of your loved one’s wishes, even if they aren’t a part of the initial conversation.

If you would like some help caring for your loved one so that you can enjoy your time together as a family again, we’re here for you! Call us to see how we can relieve some of the pressure or worry.


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