by LaBrena Friend, LMSW
At birth, most of us acquired a birth certificate and possibly a social security card. As you’ve moved through life, you’ve probably accumulated more official documents: diplomas, degrees, licenses, titles, and so on. However, as you grow older, it’s important not to overlook some vitally important documents related to health care and estate planning.
Many people avoid this process because they think it’s complicated or expensive – or that the entire subject is too unpleasant to think about. However, as you’ll see at the end of this column, expert assistance with this process is available at little or no charge. And, while it’s true that these issues may not be as pleasant to consider as, say, what you’d like for dinner, consider the alternative. If you don’t take care of this while you’re healthy, your loved ones could be left with no way to carry out your wishes in a crisis, or they could be forced to go to court.
Don’t let that happen to you or the people you love. Here is a list of documents you will need to inform your family, doctors, caregivers and legal authorities of your wishes if you are incapacitated or facing end-of-life decisions:
Each of these documents is essential for managing situations that will occur sooner or later in most of our lives. If you have not completed these documents, it is crucial that you make plans to do so as soon as possible. You can engage an elder law attorney to complete these documents. If you are concerned about the cost of hiring an attorney, the non-profit Legal Services of Alabama may be able to provide these services at little or no cost. To contact the agency, whose fees are based on income, visit www.legalservicesalabama.org or call 1-866-456-4995. Those who are internet-savvy can download free advance planning documents specific to your state through the National Healthcare Decisions Day website, https://www.nhdd.org/
If you need direct assistance, please contact Clinical Director Tammy Peacock, Phd., LICSW, Tammy@cjfsbham.org or 205.879.3438. You will be connected with one of our experienced social workers who will guide you through the process.