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How health care directives can become a last gift to family

After a debilitating stroke, the adult children of an 80-year-old woman gathered at the hospital. The doctors wanted to insert a feeding tube. What were their mother’s wishes? The decision was agonizing and emotions were running high.

As the siblings started going through paperwork in a folder, they discovered not only a power of attorney, but also a living will. This document made her wishes clear. If she could no longer eat on her own, she did not want a feeding tube. She has made the difficult decision for her family.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement reports that while 90 percent of people agree that it is important to talk about end-of-life care, but less than 30 percent actually do so. 

Advance health care directives

In Colorado, two documents can ensure that your loved ones know your wishes about end-of-life care. A Medical Durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will can be used to appoint a trusted loved one to make decisions.

Where these operate as a final gift is that they answer treatment questions. They can alleviate the burden of deciding whether to remove a breathing or feeding tube. They also avoid the need for your family members to seek a guardianship to make these decisions in the first place.

Around the time that you complete these documents, hold a family meeting. One conversation can make a big difference and the Conversation Project offers a model and resources to help make sure it happens. 

Estate planning is the first step. The follow up ensures your loved ones know what is included in your estate plan and where to find it.

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