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Answering the Difficult Questions About Aging

By Peter Ganther

(Page 2 of 3)

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?

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