The daily coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us all to make some very important emergency plans to care for those at greater risk for complications from the virus and to create a household emergency plan and contact list. Now that we are doing our best to “flatten the curve” and all have some extra time on our hands, please take a break from stressing about the news or de-stressing with funny posts on social media to pay attention to another kind of critically important planning.
There are three very important advance care planning documents that all Albertans over 18 years of age (and especially those of us with children) should have completed in order to be fully prepared for emergencies, like the current COVID-19 pandemic or much more common (but often, unexpected) events such as sudden illness or car accidents:
- a Personal Directive states who will speak for you in making decisions about medical and personal care, if you become unable to speak for yourself (unconscious, unable to communicate). This person is called your Agent;
- an Enduring Power of Attorney states who will take care of your financial matters if you become unable/incapable of doing this yourself; and
- a Will says how you want your estate (money, property, etc.) to be handled after you die.
The Personal Directive has taken the place of what used to be called a “living will”. Information about what it is, the kinds of instructions to write, why you should write one and how to prepare a Personal Directive (as well as the other documents listed here) are available on the Government of Alberta website. You can download the Personal Directive form from that website. You do not need the help of a lawyer to fill it in. You can register your Personal Directive online but, most importantly, give a copy to the Agent you named in the document and keep a copy in with other important documents in your home. You can also give a copy to your Family Physician to keep with your medical record.
It is recommended that you consult a lawyer to create the Enduring Power of Attorney and Will documents. The Government of Alberta website includes instructions about how to get this kind of legal help. If you die without a Will, the Government will do the work to settle your estate but they will also take the cost of this service out of the inheritance that you have worked hard to leave to your loved ones.
Another excellent website that can help as you go through the process of thinking about and sharing your wishes for future health and personal care is Speak Up Canada. In this time of uncertainty, ensuring that you have done all you can to be sure that your loved ones have the best tools to help you in case of emergency can give us all some peace of mind.
Dr Maureen McCall, MD, MPH, CCFP, Palliative Care Physician, Red Deer