Who Will Decide For You About Medical Care In Your Last Days?

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Many of us will be impaired at some point late in life. We may need someone to articulate our wishes about healthcare as we near our end. How do we choose the right person or persons? What do they need to know? The American Bar Association offers a free Consumer’s Tool Kit For Advance Healthcare Planning, which most people have never heard about. This is to introduce you to the toolkit. In a series of these posts, I will go through some of the tools in it that I recommend and will discuss how to put them to use. I’ve tried them with my own adult children and we’re on the right track. They work.

Here at AgingParents.com, we see many struggles over these issues in our clients, most of whom are the adult children of aging parents. The parents are in declining health and some have dementia. Most of the adult children are taking some responsibility for their aging loved ones, either financially, with various aspects of caregiving or both. In every case, after addressing the first identified needs they have for advice, we bring up the issue of planning for the end of life issue. Folks squirm in their chairs when this is raised. No wonder. It’s uncomfortable. And talking about it is hard, but we have to do this if we want any sense of control over our journey out of here. Most people do want to feel in control of what happens to them. Help your aging parents and yourself get that sense of control.

Tool # 7  in the Tool Kit is a 10 question quiz that raises various scenarios about which you would want to make a decision or have your assigned person make a decision for you. One example is the possibility of having Alzheimer’s disease and being unable to recognize anyone anymore. It asks if you were in that condition and could not eat, whether you would want to be tube fed. This kind of specificity is exactly what you or your loved ones need to know. Should you be in a position to answer the medical staff’s question on tube feeding about your own aging parent, you will know what to say. I personally had to answer that question for my own mother’s doctor when she was no longer able to speak near the end of her life. I did know what she wanted. It is empowering to know what to do, rather than to let others decide for you. If no one knows what the aging parent wanted, the default position of medical personnel is usually to treat and treat and treat, regardless of what others might guess about what the elder would have wanted. Try it out by downloading the free toolkit with this quiz in it so you can help yourself or the ones you love. It may be uncomfortable but it ultimately brings peace of mind to all involved.

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