Simple Advice for Advance Care Planning
Aging Matters

Advance care planning is necessary, even for young adults because a medical crisis could leave an individual incapable to make their preferred healthcare decisions. Even if you are healthy, make your wishes and preferences known to family members.

Over 70 percent of adults who are ill become unable to express their medical choices, and the gap between what they want, and what they receive, is significant. So, get with your family together as soon as you can and discuss end of life options. To help you, I asked the Aging Council:

What strategies do you suggest individuals use to make the end-of-life discussions natural and relaxed?

  • We assist them to voice their concerns, like potential family discord, tough questions about death, end of life care, creditors and taxes. We explain that it will help protect their loved ones, make their wishes known, put them in charge of their finances, and that lack of action will benefit the IRS. Discussions may lead to further family closeness, and is essentially a love letter to loved ones.
  • The most active influence to help end of life care situations is to have your legal documents in place, and clearly express what treatments you want or don't want in the end. Arrange the support team (palliative or hospice care) and advocates (family and professional) to say when "enough is enough" for medical interventions.
  • As a family, have conversations about your parent's wishes for the end. That's how my handled our father-in-law's wishes. It was crystal clear to all of us what he wanted and what we had to do if he could not.
  • Put together your entire care team: the professional advisors like estate planning attorney, a financial advisor, a care manager, home care team, hospice, and long-term primary care doctor to manage the practicalities in the manner you or a loved one prefers.
  • Since my mother had cared for my dad for many years -- he also had Alzheimer's disease -- she knew firsthand about hospice care. Consequently, in the final month of her life, we moved Mom into my home. It was possible because of the skilled hospice team, that provided incredible support and services. I can't say enough about them!
  • Amy Goyer of AARP talks about the challenges that adult caregivers have juggling their work, personal needs and health with caregiving responsibilities. Without this support, caregivers can easily become discouraged and blame themselves as 'failing' during these often overwhelming challenges.
  • Our plan included discussions with a doctor about a loved one's diagnosis, and following the physician's advice. Once, we called in hospice but asked a lot of questions and made decisions based on my mother's preferences for
  • Depending on the illness and prognosis, a person can use the information to determine a course for treatment, pain management or turn to hospice. As a family, we were able to select one clear path to facilitate the end of life care. With information and family agreements, the challenges or post-care are handled with ease.

Carol Marak is the editor at

. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the University of CA, Davis. Contact Carol at

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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