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Plan now for your end-of-life health care

Many people know they should establish a will to outline who is going to get their assets when they pass away, but this isn't the only type of planning they need to do. Making plans for end-of-life medical decisions is another important duty that you have.

When you set these plans, you're making it clear to the ones who are left behind what you wish to take place. There are two primary things that you need to have set in order to relay those wishes to your medical care and your family members.

Living will or advance directive

The living will or advance directive is a written set of instructions that outlines what types of medical and supportive treatment you want to accept. You can also list the ones that you don't want to use. Things like artificial hydration and nutrition, comfort care measures, and life sustaining procedures can all be included in this document.

Some individuals don't want any resuscitation measures taken. If you fit into this category, you need to fill out a specific document known as the "do not resuscitate" order. Once you have this in your medical record and on file with the hospital, you won't be resuscitated while you're there. Be sure to keep a copy of this handy so that it can be provided to emergency medical technicians if they're called out to your home. Without being able to verify that you have a DNR, the medics may begin resuscitation efforts.

Power of attorney for health care

You can name a person as your power of attorney for health care. This individual makes decisions about your medical care when you aren't able to do so. You need to be classified as incompetent for this to happen. They should be able to make decisions based on what you'd want so you should choose someone who can put their own feelings aside and follow your wishes.

One important note about the power of attorney is that they can't make decisions that are contrary to your advance directive. The doctors will follow that document as a primary source of direction.

You can be as detailed or general as you want in your advanced directive. Just remember that you'll need to review your estate plan, including this document and the power of attorney designation periodically to ensure that they still reflect your wishes. It is possible to modify these if your plans change.

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