10-Facing End-of-Life Choices

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Like every other species on earth, we have a finite amount of time on this planet. Our lives will end; that’s a given. And yet, in our culture, we seem to be in a state of perpetual denial. the only logical approach is to be better prepared for the inevitable last chapter in our lives. Preparation means facing reality and taking the necessary steps to let those who are close to us know what we hope for in our final days.

Because we are a society fixated on death from a distance, many people wait until they are terminally ill or in a life-threatening situation before they confront end-of-life decisions and plans. Of course, facing them is never easy, but we should do so while we are still thinking clearly and able to articulate our desires. No matter how ready we may be to identify our needs ahead of time, we are bound to feel a whole range of emotions, including shock, fear, or guilt about being a burden to loved ones. Whatever feelings you are having, just know that they are normal.

To overcome these immobilizing emotions, you will need the following important documents: a will, advanced directives or living will, a durable power of attorney for healthcare and finances, and your preferences about your funeral and/or memorial service. Filling out those documents takes a lot of introspection and self-reflection. The four essential ones, which you might want to have drawn up by an attorney, are legally binding. They are witnessed and notarized and an accurate depiction of your desires.

There are many things to think about at a time when you might be least able to do so, which is why it’s so important to take the time now to talk through what you will want later. Besides the provisions of these legal documents, you may have other wishes about end-of-life care, such as how you want people to treat you, how you wish to be made comfortable, and what you want your loved ones to know.

There is an instrument that allows you to express all these desires, as well as those in the above documents. Five Wishes eliminates the guesswork and spells out for your doctors and family members exactly how you wish to be treated if you become seriously ill. Because the document works so well, more than nineteen million people of all ages have already used it.

Give your doctor a copy of your Five Wishes. Be sure he or she understands your desires, is willing to follow them, and puts them in your medical record. If you are admitted to a hospital or nursing home, take a copy of Five Wishes with you.