Submitted by Zachary Vickers
It’s a conversation many of us will be confronted with at some point, even though it’s an uncomfortable topic of discussion. How do we want to be cared for at the end of our lives?
Last July, Governor Malloy signed into law the adoption of a new program known as the Medical Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST). MOLST is a medical order form designed to provide patients, with terminal or other life-threatening conditions, greater control over their healthcare decisions. By filling out a MOLST form, patients voluntarily determine what course of action doctors and medical personnel are allowed to take in the event of an emergency, even if that means refusing life-saving treatment.
Initially, only residents of Windham and the Greater Hartford area were eligible to sign up for MOLST, although it is now available to all patients throughout Connecticut.
While MOLST is an important document for those reaching the later stages of a terminal illness, otherwise healthy Connecticut seniors should still inform their family about their wishes for end of life medical treatment in an advance directive, such as appointing a health care representative or drawing up a living will with an attorney.
None of us can predict when or how we’ll pass away, but we all can choose to be prepared for the inevitable – a living will is the first step in that preparation.
In the event that you become unable to communicate your medical wishes, Taylor Johnson of Legal Templates says, “A living will informs healthcare professionals how to proceed and whether to resuscitate or sustain life through invasive measures, like administering a feeding tube, dialysis machine, or mechanical ventilators.”
Advance directives are a good way to protect loved ones during a tragedy. Johnson adds, “A living will ensures that your family won’t have to shoulder the burden of making difficult choices associated with end-of-life care.”
He also stressed the importance of appointing a health care representative – someone who is willing to make medical decisions on your behalf. This can be a friend or family member, although it’s recommended to assign an impartial third party to alleviate further emotional distress for the next of kin.
In an interview last year with The Connecticut Mirror, Karen Mulvihill of Care Decisions Connecticut revealed that less than 25% of the state population has a living will on record. Without an advance directive, doctors will treat patients to the best of their ability, the cost of which can often leave the patient’s family members left behind to deal with expensive medical bills. Long-term nursing and rehabilitation facilities are also prohibitively expensive, even under Medicare coverage and most major HMO health insurance plans.
Discussing these difficult topics is a responsible part of aging and for those with aging relatives. With the help of organizations like the Boston-based nonprofit, The Conversation Project, talking about end-of-life care with loved ones doesn’t have to be the difficult subject matter that it may seem. They’re dedicated to shifting the perception of talking about death and communicating our final wishes. If you’re finding it hard to bring these issues up, they offer numerous resources and tools to help walk you through these discussions.
We owe it to our friends and family to be prepared for when the unforeseen happens, and a living will is good place to start.
Living Will Resources
For more information on living wills, please visit:
AARP | Printable Advance Directives
Connecticut Department of Rehabilitation Services - State Unit of Aging
Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Library
Legal Templates | Downloadable Living Wills
MyDirectives | Easy Advance Directives