My client Betty, age 81, wanted to talk to her son and daughter about her wishes in case she became incapable of caring for herself, but found that they were uncomfortable whenever she brought up the topic.

“I know they don’t like to think about me getting sick and dying, but sooner or later something will happen,” she told me. “I think I’m being practical and I’d like for you to help me with a family meeting to discuss it.”

No one likes to plan for things that scare them, such as aging, dementia or another serious illness, but no one likes to be surprised with the emotional trauma and stress of a sudden crisis either. Being proactive about aging means planning for things you think are far off or won’t happen to you or your loved ones, but over-planning is better than no plan at all.

For example, many families and healthcare providers are left to struggle with difficult decisions if a senior is incapacitated and doesn’t have a living will or someone designated as a durable power of attorney for healthcare. The purpose of advance directives is to give family members instructions on the kind of health care the senior does or doesn’t want, and it designates a surrogate to make medical decisions when the senior is not able to. Elements of advance directives include the following:

  • Living will: A living will provides instructions for health care providers as to when to use, withhold, or withdraw end-of-life medical care, such as being on a ventilator or feeding tube. It’s important to share this document with healthcare providers.
  • Durable power of attorney: A durable power of attorney gives someone the power to handle financial and other matters. A durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy, refers to the legal designation of someone who will make medical decisions when the individual cannot do so. The person with durable power of attorney for health care can make treatment decisions beyond those listed in a living will. It’s important to note that the authority to make medical decisions on a person’s behalf is not included in a general power of attorney. A general power of attorney is a written authorization to act on someone’s behalf in certain legal and financial matters, but it ends when the person becomes incapacitated.

Finally, having a will ensures that important decisions about an estate are in accordance with the senior’s wishes and are not left up to local probate courts.

If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at 765-341-9295 or email us at We’ll be happy to assist!