The Author

Site search



Main menu:

H.E.L.P. Links


Top Posts

Planning End-of-Life Issues ‘Your Way’

Author: Helen Dennis, Specialist on Aging

Question: I am a 63 year-old woman and a successful business owner.  As an only child without family, I am concerned about who will be there for me in my old age?   I already have a durable power of attorney for health care but feel that is not sufficient.  I’ve been reluctant to address this.  Where do you begin on such a personal mission?       

Answer: You have asked an important question that is rarely discussed.  Congratulations for raising the issue.

End-of-life discussions are difficult for good reasons.  To discuss medical and health preferences makes the “end” seem more realistic.  Facing one’s own mortality is not necessarily easy.  Additionally, we have little or no practice in planning for the last stage of life.

Death is not what it used to be according the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C.  How true.  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, average life expectancy is almost 78 compared to 47 years in 1900.  Women have an edge. Their life expectancy is 80 compared to men’s 75 years.

And when individuals reach 65 years, men on average live 17 more years and women 20.   And at 75, men can expect to live on average almost 11 more years and women almost 13 years.  That means 86 and 88 respectively.

Note that the 85-plus is the fastest growing segment of the population.  More people are reaching old age and living in their old age for longer periods of time.

With these demographic changes there is a growing need for end-of-life planning and care.  Someone is going to make decisions that will likely affect our quality of life.  The issue is whether or not we want to have control over these decisions.

Fortunately there is a tool that can make this experience easier.  It is called Your Way:  With a Little Help From Your Friends. It is publication from H.E.L.P. (Healthcare and Elder Law Programs), a non-profit organization that assists individuals, couples and families as they address some of the legal and health challenges that can accompany aging. Your Way is a user-friendly guide to help us stay in charge of decisions about our medical care that can be completed with a friend, family member or health-care professional.

Selecting a “friend” is a good starting point.  This is someone who will speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself.  Here are some guidelines that H.E.L.P recommends in selecting that friend.  He or she will —

  • Communicate with you and have a trusting relationship.
  • Ask effective questions and get answers from medical professionals.
  • Make medical decisions that you would make, even if others disagree.
  • Be available to you when needed.

Make the designation of that friend official.  Name that person in your power for attorney for health care.

Here are some topics that Your Way addresses:  How do you define the good life?  What would you like to occur in some “what if” situations?  These might include the inability to recognize or communicate with people, permanent unconsciousness or pain management.  Your Way also includes items that tap your general feelings and views on these issues and a list of questions to ask health-care professionals.

Hopefully, we will never face those “what if” situations.  In reality, we never know.  Just as we are intentional about our financial lives and how we want live, it becomes equally important to be intentional in directing our end-of- life.

For a copy of Your Way, contact H.E.L.P at 310-533-1996 or in the above search box, type in “Your Way.” The first two copies ordered are free.

George Burns said that if he knew he would live so long, he would have taken better care of himself.  We can take better care of ourselves through physical and mental exercise, good nutrition, managing stress and planning for possible end-of-life events.

Thank you for your very important question.  Remember– seek a friend to make certain that the latter part of life will be “your way.”

© Helen Dennis 2010, all rights reserved.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Write a comment