Making End of Life Decisions in Advance

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Whether it's weddings, childbirth, household moves, job changes or other major life events, most of us start planning early – and updating regularly – when it comes to the big things. All too often, though, planning for end-of-life seems to fall off the agenda. In fact, in one study, nearly 75 percent of responders did not have a formal plan, also known as an advance directive, for their end-of-life wishes.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the term advance directive is officially defined as two types of legal document: a living will and medical power of attorney. The living will allows a person to state what care they would or would not want when facing a medical crisis. The medical power of attorney (sometimes called a healthcare proxy) appoints someone to speak on a person's behalf if that person is unable to speak for him or herself. 

Everyone has their own reasons for not creating an advance directive and ensuring that their loved ones know where it is. Some common ones include:

  • Fear/not wanting to face the end-of-life
  • Religious considerations
  • Not realizing the available options
  • Not wanting to burden loved ones

But, truly, there is a counterpoint to all of these arguments:

  • You can mitigate some of your fears by being in control of your end-of-life decisions and knowing your wishes will be respected.
  • Finding out exactly where your religion stands on certain end-of-life decisions, such as a DNR (do not resuscitate) will enable you to make a decision and compel medical professionals and family members to abide by it.
  • There are so many care and finance-management options available to every person. Learning about them will help you pick which is right for you.
  • Not knowing or understanding a loved one's final wishes can add unnecessary stress and conflict at the end-of-life, when emotions are already on overdrive.

Additionally, an advance directive should be reviewed periodically as life and opinion changes can have a meaningful impact on final decisions.​

You can learn more about advance directives by clicking here, or you can download a template for Arizona's advance directive here. For more information about caring for older adults, please contact us!


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