Life is not always predictable. You do not know if or when you will find yourself in a situation where you are unable to make decisions about your own health, money or where you live. Examples of such life-altering moments include being in a coma in hospital, being diagnosed with a progressive illness affecting your brain function or losing your speech from a major stroke. How do you tell your loved ones what treatments you want or do not want? How do you give them access to your bank accounts to pay your bills while you are sick? How would do communicate what matters most to you in life? It is often stressful and challenging for your loved ones to make decisions on your behalf in these extenuating circumstances.
Stay in control of your life situation by planning for your future. You can do this in several ways: Firstly, an advanced care directive is a document you can set up in conjunction with your doctor to outline what matters to you most in life and in ill health. You can also specifically instruct whether or not you want to receive certain medical treatments offered, such as CPR. In the event of being seriously unwell, this document acts as your voice to your healthcare team and family about decisions around your health.
Another way to be in control of your medical-related decisions is to appoint someone you trust as your medical power of attorney. Like the advanced care directive, this person serves as your voice to advocate for you if you are unable to do so. They can also be your support person in making complex health-related decisions if you feel overwhelmed. Your medical power of attorney needs to be willing and able to take on this responsibility.
Protecting your finances and the wealth you have created over the years is another aspect of your life that you can plan for in advance. Most people are aware of making a will as an instructional directive on how their estate is managed after they die but did you know you can do something similar while you are alive? Appointing a financial power of attorney allows you to be in control of who manages your finances if you are unable to do so. For example, you can legally appoint a trusted person to manage your money to pay your bills and protect your assets. Additionally, you can nominate your power of attorney to hold the additional responsibility of making lifestyle decisions on your behalf, such as where you live. You can choose when this role comes into effect – it can be immediate, conditional or when you are assessed by a doctor as not having the capacity to make these decisions yourself.
Life is a rollercoaster and you never know what lies around the corner. You have the power to advocate for yourself while you are still well. Speak to your doctor today about planning for your future.
Dr Kalyani Tharmarajah