Dear Carol: My parents are in their 80s and so far, avoided contracting this coronavirus. They are finally recognizing, though, that they need to put end-of-life care plans in place. Is this too little too late? Can we do this online? How do we get the documents signed?
I’ve pushed them for years to do the documents and they’ve refused, so I don’t want to blow this opportunity. I don’t know who or what I can trust right now. Can you help? — PR.
Dear PR: Your parents aren’t alone in coming to a sudden recognition about the need for having the right documents in place for this extraordinary time. They may have refused in the past, fearing as many do that acknowledging that their lives won’t last forever would somehow hasten their demise. They also may have worried that they’d immediately lose their autonomy.
Whatever their reasoning in the past, you and many other adult children are now being asked to make certain that they have what they need. You have some options.
First, law firms, like other businesses, are becoming creative and many are conducting their meetings with clients online and then offering curbside signing and/or delivery of the documents. Some may even stop by your home for a handoff.
Another option, which is good to consider even if you later seek an attorney, is to go online to find your state’s required documents. You can print these out, though again, physical distancing may be necessary to obtain witnesses’ signatures.
Here are some choices for you to consider as you prepare. Be cautious with any of them because you obviously will be sharing sensitive information. Therefore, double-check websites and if anything seems off, back out and look elsewhere.
- Five Wishes, an extension of Aging with Dignity, is where much of the online conversation began that has helped people think through what matters to them as an individual life draws to a close. I’d suggest using the website I'm providing, www.fivewishes.org, as many other sites are using the term now, as well. Most may be fine, but others might be sketchy. Also, this site gives you guidance as you plan. Yes, right now, you might have to have an emergency document in place, but for the future, you might like to do it more thoughtfully.
- The Conversation Project is another excellent website where you can find guidance as well as documents: https://www.caringcommunity.org/helpful-resources/models-research/caring-conversations/
- Prepare for Your Care allows you to download the documents for your state. To the best of my knowledge, it has a good reputation: https://prepareforyourcare.org/advance-directive
Again, doing your own planning online is fine when there aren’t a lot of "ifs," "ands" or "buts." Otherwise, you may want to hire an attorney.
Even if you opt for an attorney, looking over these sites should be helpful in your planning.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.