Important Documents

What matters most. The quality of our days, our ability to do the things we love, often takes priority as we age. What is important to your loved one? What brings joy? What matters most? Knowing this will help you support them and also give you key information if you have to make treatment decisions on their behalf.

Choosing a healthcare decision maker. No matter a person’s age, if they are unable to speak for themself in a medical situation (a coma, surgery, dementia, etc.), they will need someone to be their healthcare decision maker, sometimes known as an “agent,” “surrogate,” or “proxy.” Family caregivers can help the person being cared for decide who the agent should be.

If you are a decision maker. It’s an honor to be chosen as a healthcare agent. With it come responsibilities. Learn more about the role and how you can help your loved one in their time of need.

Key conversations. If you are caring for an aging loved one, you will want to have conversations about end-of-life care. But since any of us could get into an accident tomorrow, it’s wise for all of us to have these conversations with family members. These discussions are often as much about living as they are about wishes concerning life support and dying. They can be rich and meaningful exchanges. Even light hearted (“What’s on your bucket list?”).

Life support. The decision about when to start (and then stop) life support is very personal. These measures are not cures, merely a stopgap to let the body heal and recover full functioning. They are not guaranteed to keep alive. Plus, there can be significant problems with quality of life afterwards. Learn about the survival statistics and the experience and outcomes of these procedures so you and your relative can discuss their wishes before there’s an emergency.