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Get Them Talking: Start ‘The  Conversation' 

Men discussing advance directives

A century ago death happened at home. Everything medicine could do to keep you alive was found in the doctor’s black bag. In the last 50 years, medical technology has made it possible to keep someone alive virtually indefinitely. But at what cost?

We see in the news what can happen when people fail to leave thorough instructions on how they want to be cared for when they can’t speak for themselves. Perhaps because of those stories of anguished families, Americans are more likely to make their wishes known. Still, according to research, less than 30 percent of the population has put in writing what they do and do not want at the end of life.

Don't Wait for a Crisis

Have the conversation and don’t wait for a crisis. Leaving your healthcare decisions unknown can lead to anguish, pain and astronomical cost that can result when patients no longer can tell their loved ones what kind of care, which “heroic measures,” they would accept or reject.

Get Your Loved Ones Involved

A family talking about advance directives

Talk to your loved ones—briefly, in depth, frequently, lightly, seriously—about your wishes. And don’t wait for the subject to come up; take control. Include younger and older generations in the conversation. Take it slowly if there is resistance, but return to the topic; it might be easier next time. Include a religious adviser or friend if that would make the others more comfortable.

There is lots of online information about putting your wishes in writing. Try agingwithdignity.org.

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Advance Directives