As our parents age, we want to make their lives are as comfortable as possible as health conditions associated with old age begin to progressively affect their quality of life. Although the focus of estate planning for residents of Tennessee and elsewhere is often on allocating financial resources after death, it is essential to also plan for future medical needs and honor the wishes of an elderly person regarding their choice of palliative care and other end-of-life decisions.
Chronic conditions and existing health problems often get worse with age, and diseases like diabetes, or conditions such as hypertension, blood pressure and high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attacks, or other disability. Planning for an elderly loved one’s future should include discussions about healthcare decisions they or their family may have to make.
Important end-of-life documents to have
When people are beginning to target their end-of-life priorities with an experienced estate planner, they make informed decisions among the various legal instruments that are available to them. Many of these documents have different names and requirements depending on the state in which you reside, but in general they are called advance directives, and include:
- Proxies, often called a durable power of attorney, name a trusted loved one or medical professional as a proxy to make important medical decisions on behalf of another. There are often options for the naming of a secondary proxy if the primary individual cannot fulfill this function.
- Living wills give specific directives concerning the maker’s choice of treatment options especially for a terminal illness, or palliative care options.
- Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders identify the conditions in which the patient would not want to be resuscitated.
The purpose of these documents is to provide legal protection for the wishes of individuals if they can no longer speak for themselves, and guarantee that a trusted individual will oversee their medical needs at the same time.
Advance directives in Tennessee
In Tennessee, state laws now recognize several of these and combine the substance of the living will and medical power of attorney into one document called an Advance Directive for Health Care. In this document, the individual names a representative, called a health care agent, to make healthcare decisions on their behalf in the event of incapacity, and includes their preferences for life-prolonging intervention and organ and tissue donation.
For residents of West Tennessee, prior advance care planning can reduce the stress that elderly loved ones and their families often feel as they are planning for their next stages in life.