I am very grateful for Teresa Powell’s “One View” essay on having a family discussion about “end of life” wishes. It’s a good start.

I’d like to extend her sentiment in two more directions.

Having a discussion with family members about end-of-life wishes is, of course, critical. But, alone, it does not empower them to carry out those wishes in the event that I am incommunicative or incompetent. Health-care personnel have no mandate to listen to hearsay. End-of-life wishes need to be encoded and empowered through a formal Power of Attorney for Healthcare and a Living Will.

But what about after “end of life”? There is so much more loved ones will have to be concerned with on my behalf. Yes, formalities should be encoded in a Will, but even that barely scratches the surface.

I do recommend what I call developing a “cheat sheet.” Write out significant people who need to be contacted. Write out what to do with a pet. Where does that favorite book or piece of art go? What are my Medicare account numbers? And so much more. Put yourself in your loved one’s place — unwinding your life as you would like them to — and list out every piece of information you can think of to help them focus and get results.

Yes, this does need to be done now, not at the end-of-life stage. And yes, things may change — but it’ll be easier to cross something out and add updated information versus leaving your loved ones wondering what I would like to have done with …

Have that conversation. Get a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Make a Living Will. Sign a Will. And above all, create the cheat sheet needed to focus your family on what matters most to you and will be most helpful to them.

Ron Elling

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