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Answering the Difficult Questions About Aging /
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Answering the Difficult Questions
When individuals have the right to
determine their own destinies, they sometimes will not
cooperate. My aunt and uncle decided they were quite
capable of taking care of themselves. Something I had
learned several years ago is that individuals have to
experience a crisis before they accept help. The crisis
came about six months later.
My aunt contacted an uncle in Oklahoma,
saying she was having a nervous breakdown and asking him
to immediately come to help. When he arrived, she was
unable to cope any longer with my uncle or herself.
Arrangements were made for admittance to a geriatric
unit at a local hospital for a full evaluation. What we
found was a person with severe depression and anxiety.
This crisis started a process that would not have been
carried through unless a plan had been created earlier
outlining their wishes.
How can we help our elderly family
members with medical and financial decisions? Where do
we begin? First, sit down and ask who they trust to make
medical and financial decisions.
Second, visit an attorney to assist with
documents that will answer these questions. If cost is
an issue, there are a lot of free services available
through Legal Aid and senior centers. Their attorney
will discuss living wills, durable powers of attorney,
and durable power of attorney for health care.
Third, make sure that you know the
answers to the following questions in the event that you
have to step in to make decisions on their behalf:
The personís current health?
Level of trust with doctors? Is the
person comfortable with their doctor making the
final decision concerning any treatment needed?
What makes the person laugh or cry?
What is their attitude toward death?
What are the wishes on the use of
life sustaining measures for terminal illness?