End of life issues are very personal and can be difficult decisions for families to make on a number of levels. Because these issues are so serious, it is important to address them as part of one’s estate planning, and well ahead of time. One good reason for this is to avoid a situation where the family cannot agree about how to care for you.
One important way to address these issues is to identify your medical wishes in a living will or an advance health care directive. The latter allows one not only to identify preferred care in regard to specific medical situations, but also to appoint a medical decision-maker. Alternatively one could establish a durable power of attorney.
These legal steps are important ones to take, but it is important to remember that having the hard conversations with family is necessary groundwork to make things work smoothly. Doing this involves a willingness to face the topic with loved ones. This can be difficult, not only for the one doing the planning, but also for family, who may not be ready to begin thinking about such matters.
One tool available to help families discuss these matters is “The Conversation Project,” an online initiative providing tools to help families open up and discuss end of life planning.
Every family situation is different, and different families have different needs and challenges. All families, though, can benefit from having open honest conversations about end of life issues. These conversations are one half of end life planning, at least, while the other half is taking specific steps to identify one’s wishes and give them legal force.
Source: Forbes, “Do Conversations Around End Of Life Really Matter?,” Carolyn McClanahan, October 7, 2012.