What you need to know when making end-of-life health-care decisions for family, yourself | St. Louis Public Radio

What you need to know when making end-of-life health-care decisions for family, yourself

Apr 18, 2017

This week, health-care professionals and families are making a point to talk about a subject that can be very difficult for some: end-of-life decisions. This week marks National Healthcare Decisions week.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the importance of advance care planning for end-of-life decisions with two people in the St. Louis community who aid families in making these difficult decisions all the time: Brian Carpenter, a clinical psychologist and professor at Washington University, and Virginia G. Rice, an elder law attorney with The Rice Law Firm.

This week, health-care professionals and families are making a point to talk about a subject that can be very difficult for some: end-of-life healthcare decisions.  

Tuesday marked National Healthcare Decisions Day and on St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the importance of advance care planning for end-of-life decisions with two people in the St. Louis community who aid families in making these difficult decisions all the time.  

Brian Carpenter, a clinical psychologist and professor at Washington University, and Virginia G. Rice, an elder law attorney with The Rice Law Firm, joined the program.

“The idea of a bucket list is really appealing; it does tell you that people are thinking their life is going to end, and they have things they want to accomplish before it does, but they don’t take it to the next step,” Carpenter said. “There is going to be a time in my life when I’m dying, before I’m dead. There are certain things people want that to look like and don’t want that to look like. That can be very challenging for people to think about and talking about it can be even more challenging.”

Below, find suggestions from Carpenter and Rice about planning for this time of life:

What are the legal documents necessary to determine end-of-life health-care decisions?

Rice said that every individual should have legal documentation that shows a durable power of attorney for healthcare, a health-care directive and a durable power of attorney for finances.

Beyond that, there are also more specific forms dealing with the terms of who should receive HIPPA-protected information and burial decisions.

You can find free forms to take to an attorney on the Gateway End of Life Coalition’s website here. These documents vary for every state.

A designated durable power of attorney for health care determines who will make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

A health-care directive tells physicians, nurses, health care providers what you want and don’t want in terms of your end-of-life health care.

Who should be involved in these decisions?

Carpenter recommends you include close family, friends and your health care providers. Your attorney should also be a part of the process.

When should you start planning?

Both Carpenter and Rice recommended that people start at a young age, in case of a tragedy resulting in early death.

Related Event

What: National Healthcare Decision Day Interactive Art Exhibit "Before I Die"
When: Tuesday, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Where: Emerson Auditorium at St. Lukes Hospital
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.