Living Wills Protect you at All Ages, Stages of Life

(ARA) – “People act as if death is contagious. It’s not contagious, you know. Death is as natural as life,” so said Morrie Schwartz in the 1997 best-seller by Mitch Albom, “Tuesdays with Morrie.” The popular biography made death seem almost accessible given Morrie’s comfort level talking about it. Yet, most people still avoid the topics of death and dying. 
Among living creatures, awareness of one’s own mortality is a uniquely human experience. And, for most people, it is not easy to discuss. While some may be afraid to talk about death, most do not want to be a burden to loved ones and would prefer to see their wishes followed in the event of a significant health status change or even a catastrophic event. Yet more than two-thirds of the adult population does not have a living will or other advance directive. 

Older adults are more likely to use advance directives, which are documents that give instructions about health care or appoint someone to make medical treatment decisions, but young people have as much at stake when they have not expressed their preferences. If stricken with a serious disease or accident, medical technology combined with the lack of clear direction may mean they are kept alive against their wishes. 

If you are considering your own advance directive, it is essential to write your wishes and preferences down on paper, and then have a meaningful conversation with your family members and doctor. By putting everything in writing, you ensure that the information is available to your appointed health care agent, doctor, hospital and clinic or managed care plan. You do not have to put specific wishes in your advance directive document if you aren’t sure of your wishes in the face of future unknowns. But it is vitally important to appoint a health care agent or proxy — someone who will follow your wishes in the event that you can no longer speak for yourself. Appointing that agent and having the conversation about your preferences are important steps toward peace of mind. 

The American Bar Association has a 10-point toolkit for consumers that helps make the process easier to navigate. And the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization provides state-specific forms for use. Experts recommend reviewing advance care planning documents at critical life stages, including the “5 Ds” — every new Decade of your life, after the Death of a loved one, after a Divorce, after any significant Diagnosis and after any significant Decline in functioning. 

Whether younger, middle-aged or older, responsible adults benefit from making their own advance care plans. And while it is a difficult discussion, talking to family, friends, doctors and your lawyer makes your wishes clear. An advance directive can assure that those wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are spared potentially agonizing decisions. 

Courtesy of ARAcontent