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Address death and medical care in an advance medical directive

The aging process has a way of removing people's autonomy regarding everything from their living situation to their own finances. Individuals who were once capable of performing complex surgeries may no longer be able to dress themselves or choose where they live.

Cognitive decline is another major issue that affects the independence and decision-making authority of older adults. As you age, issues with memory or other important mental functions could give your family the ability to challenge your right to make your own medical decisions.

Instead of handing over control about your most personal and important decisions, you should spend time now considering how you would like to receive care as you age. That way, you know your family will have the information they need to follow your wishes when you need their help the most.

An advance medical directive gives you control over future care

If your family challenges your mental state, they may be able to make medical decisions on your behalf unless you have already committed those decisions to a legal document. An advanced medical directive allows you to outline exactly what treatments you want under various circumstances. The creation of such a document protects your wishes as you age and prevents any conflict of interest from compromising the kind of care that you receive.

Certain decisions, from choosing not to receive resuscitation efforts to setting terms under which you want to participate in the state's right-to-die or euthanasia program, can prove difficult for your family members to make on your behalf. They may struggle with guilt or with determining what they believe your wishes would have been.

Committing your preferences to writing now protects your wishes and also relieves them of the stress and strain involved in making critical care decisions for an ailing loved one. Instead of trying to deduce your hopes, they can refer to a specific legal document that will outline your wishes and preferences regarding medical care.

Remember to revisit your medical directive as your situation changes

How you feel about medical care in your 40s may be vastly different than how you feel about it in your 70s after a significant diagnosis. Simply creating an advance medical directive does not mean that you are done with making your wishes known. Your wishes will probably change drastically as you age and medical technology continues to advance.

Choosing to revisit your advance medical directive every few years helps ensure that it is accurate and enforceable in the event that your family must rely on it to make decisions about your care in the future. The more up-to-date the document is, the harder it will be for someone to claim it is too old and no longer reflects your wishes.

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