This week, like many of you, I have been thinking about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have recently become infected with COVID-19. Chances are, you know someone who falls into this category. Whether those individuals experience relatively minor symptoms, the virus knocks them out for a week or two, or they require intensive hospital care, I know the experience must be scary and lonely. On top of that, more than 40,000 people have died, according to the CDC this week. Needless to say, this is a time of uncertainty. It's a time when many of us are feeling vulnerable and unsure of what to do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
I've been writing about the impacts of coronavirus a lot lately because, let's face it, there's nothing else to write about. This pandemic is ever-present in my mind. I am guessing it is in yours, too. There isn't a clear end in sight just yet, and many of us are starting to feel the very real financial, emotional, and physical impacts of this pandemic. First and foremost, let me say, I am here. I am here to talk, to check in, to provide support, and even to offer a laugh or a virtual hug. Next, let me offer this: there are a few things you can be doing right now to help keep your family safe and healthy.
It Can't Be Repeated Enough: Wash Your Hands and Stay Home, If Possible
Before I jump into any pearls of wisdom about estate planning, let me start with the basics: comply with all CDC guidelines. Of course, this is the very best thing you can do to keep your family safe. Listen to the experts. The guidelines are ever-changing, but the CDC are doing a great job of keeping the public updated. Visit the CDC website to learn how to keep yourself safe and what to do if you suspect you might be infected. Washing your hands, keeping socially distant from others, and covering your nose and mouth in public are still the best ways to prevent the spread of this virus.
Revisit Your Living Will: Your Choices May Feel Different in a Moment of Uncertainty
If you have written an Advance Medical Directive in the past, you probably have a Living Will. If you don't know what that is, let me offer a brief review. (I've written about this in a lot more detail elsewhere, so feel free to check it out).
An Advance Medical Directive is a group of documents that work together to inform loved ones and health care professionals about your treatment preferences, if you are unable to do so. So remember, this set of documents is useful if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are so ill that you are unable to communicate with your doctors or your loved ones. Advance Medical Directives can include a lot of different things, but they typically include:
- Health Care Instructions
- Appointment of a Health Care Agent
- HIPAA Authorizations
Today, I want to focus on the Health Care Instructions (often called a “Living Will”). Under the Health Care Decisions Act, adults are allowed to decide for themselves whether they want a particular medical treatment, such as blood transfusions, life support, resuscitation measures, feeding tubes, and ventilation. It's these last few that made me want to raise this topic today. For many of us, our Advance Medical Directives, including our Health Care Instructions, were written at a time when we were not thinking about a specific injury or illness. We just answered these questions for ourselves thinking about a vague future when they might be put into effect. Today, things are a little less vague. That's why I want each and every person to revisit his or her Living Will. Take a look at the choices you made and ensure that they are still how you feel. I encourage this practice in any time of uncertainty (after a diagnosis, before surgery, and even more travel) and the current moment is no exception. Revisit your Living Will and make sure that your preferences comport with how you would want to receive medical care if you do become infected with COVID-19. Have this conversation with your appointed Health Care Agent, too. Let them know what you want and why.
If There are Changes to be Made, Make Them Now
Advance Health Care Directives can easily be amended. If there is anything in yours that you want to change, give the Tyra Law Firm a call. We can help you revise your Directives so that they fit the current public health climate. If you have never created an Advance Health Care Directive at all, we need to talk. Let's meet virtually to get the right documents in place. Unfortunately, things are uncertain right now. Let's do what we can to stay safe and to stay prepared. All my best to you and your loved ones. Stay safe out there.