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What should be included in end-of-life planning?

It's not something anyone wants to think about: Discussing possible end-of-life plans can be depressing or scary. But not talking about them with loved ones or service providers can actually lead to scarier outcomes. You could find yourself in a position where you are unable to make decisions for yourself, but you have not made your wishes known ahead of time. You would be at the mercy of a loved one or, even scarier, at the mercy of a court or legal authority.

Planning ahead for care and other matters reduces the stress on everyone. You don't have to worry about treatment or care that you would not agree with, and loved ones aren't forced to make difficult decisions without valid input on your part.

When talking about end-of-life planning, there are some common things you should consider discussing. For example, you'll need to designate someone or some people to make certain decisions for you. You can select a professional adviser such as an attorney or you can designate a loved one, including a spouse or child. You can also use estate documents such as living wills to provide direction for these individuals.

Decide what types of medical treatments you are okay with. A living will lets you give permission for certain services while denying others. You can accept tube feeding, for example, but not machine respiration. You can state whether you want to be resuscitated and whether you want your organs donated. You can even provide some instructions for where and how you want to receive treatment.

Finally, your estate documents can help you plan for the cost of any end-of-life care. By setting up insurance, trusts and other legal vehicles, you can avoid leaving heirs with burdens associated with your care. All of these decisions are complex, so after you speak with family and friends, consider speaking with a legal professional to convert your wishes into binding estate documents.

Source: Family Caregiver Alliance, "End-of-Life Decision-Making," accessed Oct. 02, 2015

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