Many older adults face questions about medical treatments during a health emergency or near the end of life, when they're unable to choose for themselves or to say what they want.
Having early discussions about end-of-life priorities and care preferences gives older adults and those close to them peace of mind. Older adults know their wishes will be honored. No one has to guess what they would have wanted.
Thinking through different emergency treatment decisions ahead of time is called advance care planning or end-of-life planning. Some people decide which treatments they want by talking with family or friends. Health and legal professionals can answer questions about medical treatments and legal documents.
Advance care planning includes:
Learning about emergency treatments, like resuscitation, tube feeding and mechanical breathing
Discussing values and care preferences, including which emergency treatments should be used and under what conditions
Sharing emergency and end-of-life care preferences through discussions and documents
An advance directive, also called a living will, is an official document that explains someone's preferences for emergency or end-of-life care. People can fill out advance directives on their own or with help from health and legal professionals. There are different advance directive documents, to meet each state's laws.
Advance directives only go in effect when someone is facing a terminal illness or life-threatening emergency and can not make their own medical decisions.
Sharing advance directive documents with health professionals and medical decision-makers helps make sure the person's care preferences are followed.