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Do you know what advance directives are? When Mom had her stroke, we were in shock. She was a vibrant, independent, seemingly healthy 65 year old. She worked at the restaurant she created, did yoga, spent time with friends, took the dog on a walk daily. She laid in the emergency room and of course we were all emotional and just kept saying that this was a little blip and like everything else in her life, she would overcome and we would go back to normal life. She was in the ICU for weeks. As she was in the hospital, we realized that we didn’t really know what her healthcare wishes were. We also didn’t know how to pay her bills. We didn’t know anything! It’s a frightening and incredibly stressful position to be in. Remember Terry Schiavo? The woman who laid in a vegetative state for 15 years because her husband and her parents disagreed on whether or not to pull her feeding tube! Both parties thought they knew what she would have wanted. But unless you express your wishes, they can’t be honored.

That’s why I wanted to do this episode on Advance Directives. These documents remove the question of what to do in the event of a health crisis. You appoint your healthcare proxy –the person you want to speak on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. The living will outlines your wishes, how you do and do not wish to be medically treated. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), MOLSTs (Medical Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) are other forms that also articulate your wishes. The hope is that you never need to use these forms but have them on hand just in case. Just like car or home insurance — you have them in the event of an accident.

Elder Law Attorney Linda Redlisky is amazing at breaking it all down and explaining the differences between the documents and what is at stake when you don’t have them filled out.

You can fill out your healthcare proxy at your state’s heath care site. On the Modern Aging website’s resource section, we also recommend using Legal Zoom or Law Depot to obtain all the necessary forms. Each state has their own forms so be sure to check on that.

Just go and do them for yourself and every adult member of your family so you don’t have to deal with it during a health crisis.

Linda Redlisky, Partner

Ms. Redlisky is a partner at Rafferty & Redlisky, LLP concentrating in elder law, including guardianships, Medicaid planning, and estate administration.

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