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Your health is your greatest wealth. How prepared are you?

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We’ve all heard the saying, "Life is a journey." But take a moment to think about the journeys of your own life.

They may have included cross-country vacations with your family or trips to Europe with friends. Many of your best journeys have probably included a plan. To make the most of your time, you talked with others about your destination, you researched the location, made reservations and created itineraries. You took all of these extra steps to help ensure the journey was smooth and enjoyable.

While vacations are one type of journey, others require us to plan for life’s “what ifs.” Careful advanced health care planning can help ensure you’re prepared for any unforeseen journey ahead. Planning for what would happen if you have a medical issue and are unable to speak for yourself is a journey we often don’t talk about. That’s why it’s important to have an advanced health care plan. It allows your family, friends and health care team to know the types of medical treatment you want or do not want if you are incapacitated.

The non-profit organization Aging with Dignity created "Five Wishes," a living will that allows you to communicate your personal, emotional and spiritual needs and your medical wishes if you are unable to speak for yourself. It gives you a way to plan for something very important — how you want to be treated if you become seriously ill.

Another important directive of Five Wishes is the selection of a health care agent. Most people wish to give health care agents the broadest authority possible to make decisions when it is no longer possible to make those decisions for themselves. Some of these situations might include the use of life-sustaining treatments such as artificial nutrition and hydration. Questions to consider when selecting a health care agent might be:

  • Would this person be willing to speak on your behalf?
  • Would he/she be able to act on your wishes separate from his/her feelings that may differ from yours?
  • Do they live close by or could travel to be at your side if needed?
  • Is this person someone you trust with your life?

Many people prefer to keep their legal documents private. However, when a person is unable to make important health care decisions, previously communicated wishes are critical. Planning and talking with your physicians and family now is essential to your wishes being carried out later. The more these individuals know, the easier it will be for them to act on your plan. While these conversations can be difficult, those you care about will be relieved of tremendous emotional burdens because your desires will be documented. Once the Five Wishes form is signed, it meets the legal requirements for advanced health care directives in most states. However, as your life changes, your wishes and needs may change. It is important to re-examine your plans at critical points in your life:

  • At the beginning of each new decade
  • If you experience the death of a loved one
  • If you divorce or experience a major family change
  • If you are diagnosed with a serious health condition
  • If you experience a significant deterioration of an existing health condition, especially if it diminishes your ability to live independently

Regardless of your generation, if you are over the age of 18, it is important to have conversations about what you value most in life and how you would want to be treated in specific health or medical situations. Putting your decisions in writing now will give your loved ones the gift of peace of mind.

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The information provided is for informational and educational purposes only. It is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources but it is not guaranteed and should not be relied upon for legal advice.

Waddell & Reed, Inc., and its representatives do not provide legal advice. Please consult an attorney as to any legal statements made herein.

Waddell & Reed, Inc., is not related to or affiliated with Aging with Dignity.

Due to the rapidly changing nature of the law and reliance upon outside sources, Waddell & Reed, Inc., makes no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein.

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