Lessons in end of life care from Joan Rivers

Life support

Life supportAs most people will know, Joan Rivers passed away in early September. She was a pioneer in the comedy world, and a larger-than-life figure. She also took death in stride, regularly making jokes about it in her comedy acts and online. It turns out that she did more than joke about death, though; she also planned for it.

Joan didn’t just have a will; she also had an advanced care directive, which in Ontario would be a Power of Attorney for Personal Care with specific instructions. In it, she made specific directions about what was to be done as she came to the end of her life, specifically that she was not to be kept alive artificially on life support.

I truly believe that having powers of attorney in place can be even more important than having a will. The power of attorney document lets you choose who will make decisions on your behalf when you’re living but can’t make a decision any longer, and also lets you make specific directions. Without that, you are relying on whoever in your family decides to step up. That could be disastrous.