A recent conversation:

You're getting older.

Aren't we all?

I guess so, but it beats the alternative!

We're all part of that particular club once we're born - not a very exclusive club, but for the most part, it has a lot of great members. And whether we're on the early side or the later side of the process, there are some things we can do to make "down the road" a little easier.

Generally, we're pretty much occupied with life by just living; then some event comes up and slaps us in the face. That's when we need information right now, thank you. We all make decisions moment by moment, day by day all our lives ... until we can't. Then what?

The obvious answer is that someone else steps in and makes them and hopefully, their decisions about you are at least close to what you want. Yep - we're back to the ever popular and cheerful subject of crisis and/or end-of-life issues. There are documents that can be completed in order for your wishes to still be heard when you can no longer articulate them. And while these are all good ideas, it would be a disservice to state they alone will guarantee your desired outcome. At the very least, your preferences will be known to family and medical professionals.

So let's take a very brief look at some things that might be useful:

? Advance Directives/Living Wills/Health Care Directives, etc. - information regarding your choices for health care if you become unable to communicate them yourself. (Which, if any, life-sustaining efforts do you want to have?)

? Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for healthcare - allows someone you have designated to make the care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. (Note: a general Power of Attorney [POA] only remains in effect when you are capable of directing and granting permission) In other words, you have authorized someone to be your voice. For more information regarding these, visit the Washington State Law Helps at www.washingtonlawhelp.org.

? Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) - covers the details of what type, and to what extent, you desire treatment to sustain your life. This document is signed also by your physician and covers everything from types of respiratory support to CPR efforts. Again, decisions you previously made in place for when you are unable to make your desires known. For the form and more information, see the Dept. of Health website at www.doh.wa.gov.

Spending just a few minutes on the websites mentioned can get you a lot of information in a relatively short time, and it's information that is actually understandable! Obviously, this stuff requires some serious thinking. However, if you want to continue your decision-making even when incapacitated, there is a way.

And by the way, be sure and let your designee and/or family know your decisions and where you've put the documents. A voice isn't a voice unless it's heard.

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