Thank you to the Red Deer Advocate for its excellent coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially how it is affecting all of us in central Alberta.
Printing the Alberta Health Services safety tips (highlighted in blue) on a daily basis reminds us all to make some very important emergency plans to care for those at greater risk for complications and to create a household emergency plan and contact list.
So 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 destressing with funny posts on social media to pay attention to another kind of critically important planning.
There are three very important advanced 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:
1. A personal directive that states who would 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.
2. An enduring power of attorney that states who would take care of your financial matters if you become unable/incapable of doing this yourself.
3. A will that says how you want your estate 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: http://www.alberta.ca.
You can also 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 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: http://www.advancedcareplanning.ca.
The slogan for their 2020 Speak Up Canada campaign is “A Life Well Lived is a Life Well Planned.”
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 is a palliative care physician in Red Deer.