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November 25, 2013

How to create a living will

NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior, Can you recommend some good resources that can help seniors create a living will?

— Getting Old

Dear Getting,

Creating a living will is one of those things most people plan to do, but rarely get around to actually doing. Less than 30 percent of Americans currently have one. But preparing one now gives you say in how you want to be treated at the end of your life, not to mention it can spare your loved ones some very stressful medical care decisions at an emotional time. Here’s what you should know along with some resources to help you create one. 

 

Advance directives: To adequately spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment you need two legal documents: A “living will” which tells your doctor what kind of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated, and a “health care power of attorney” (or health care proxy), which names a person you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to.

These two documents are known as an “advance directive,” and will only be utilized if you are too ill to make medical decisions yourself. You can also change or update it whenever you please.

You may also want to consider including a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) as part of your advance directive, since advanced directives do little to protect you from unwanted emergency care like CPR. Doctors and hospitals in all states accept DNR orders.

One other tool you should know about that will compliment your advance directive is the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Currently endorsed in 16 states with dozens more in some phase of development, a POLST translates your end-of-life wishes into medical orders to be honored by your doctors. To learn more or set one up, see polst.org.

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