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When you’re healthy, it feels weird to talk about what you’d like to have happen to you when you’re dying.
Many people avoid the topic, not wanting to feel the emotions that bubble to the surface.
But when you think about the practicality of planning ahead and set aside the morbid feelings, it makes complete sense. Creating an end-of-life plan while you’re still able-bodied ensures you have control over what happens to you, and it eliminates the stress those decisions would create for your family.
It may be easier to get motivated about making your plan if you imagine it happening to someone else. When someone you love is near the end of his or her life, the last thing you want to think about is handling those final days of care.
When your mind is flooded with memories, sadness and anxiety, the burden of making medical decisions--such as whether your loved one should stay on life support--would make it all the more stressful.
Now, picture your loved ones; your spouse, your kids. Planning now while you are healthy would spare them significant emotional pain at the end of your life.
It’s simple to make this plan, also known as advance directives. You can lay out a detailed list for the end of your life in a living will. You can also draw up instructions for a designated power of attorney (someone who could speak for you if you aren’t able to), leaving nothing to be decided.
A living will only applies if you have a terminal (incurable or irreversible) condition. A living will may specify that you do not want life-sustaining procedures used if you have a terminal condition and are unable to state your wishes.
A healthcare power of attorney lets you choose someone (who would be called your “agent”) to make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t make those decisions for yourself. You may give your agent specific directions about the care you do or do not want. Unlike most living wills, the power of attorney does not require that the signer have a terminal condition.
There are links to several helpful websites on our advance directives page.
The Conversation Project offers help getting started on everything from talking about the topic to moving forward with your advance directives. The Illinois Department of Public Health also has information and links to documents on its website.
Once you have your living will or power of attorney document finished, give copies to your designated agent. The AARP recommends giving a copy to your doctor and keeping a copy at home.
Have you tackled advance directives? How did you get started? Leave a comment—it could help others get started too.
What kind of medical care would you want if you were too ill or hurt to make those decisions? Creating advance directives allows you to decide now.
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