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End-of-life planning is useful and important at any life stage


The end of life and death is not commonly something that anyone likes to talk about but because of advances in medical technology, and the ability to prolong life, it is important that individuals focus on long-term care planning and make their wishes for later in life, or end-of-life, known. The importance of protecting loved ones can be two-fold as individuals prepare for end-of life circumstances and situations, as well as those following the end of their lives.

Advance directives make it possible for individuals to express how they wish the end-of life period to transpire for them. An advance directive includes a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will. As part of an advance directive, a decision-maker will be named for circumstances when the individual is unable to make decisions for themselves. This can include decisions related to medical needs and medical care. The living will enumerates choices and decisions that may need to be made about healthcare during the end-of-life period. Living wills dictate which types of end-of-life interventions, such as life support or feeding tubes and artificial hydration, the individual wishes to receive and in what circumstances, such as a terminal state or one of permanent unconsciousness, among others.

The process of long term care planning will allow the individual to better understand the options and what the individual is comfortable with. As with most legal documents, it can be useful and important to update them regularly as circumstances and wishes may change. Protecting loved ones may be achieved through making end-of-life decisions in advance that will not require potentially difficult judgment calls on their part that may lead to disputes and conflicts over care.

Long term care planning can be important for any type of person at any age, and not just senior citizens, because the reality is that the individual does not know when it may become useful.

Source: Jewish Journal, "Discussing death: Advanced directives, living wills and more," Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, June 25, 2014

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