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Why You Need to Make Your End-of-Life Wishes Known

End-of-life conversations are critical. Start them today.

By Sherri Snelling

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves as we get older is to ensure that our end-of-life wishes are clear, that they have been communicated to our loved ones and rendered in a way that is legally binding — in fact, Americans of any age should make sure their end-of-life paperwork is in order. While you can spend a lot on legal fees for living wills, advance directives for end-of-life care, durable power of attorney documents for medical and financial decisions, do not resuscitate orders and similar documentation, there is a more affordable, equally binding alternative: Creating a living will on

Creating the documents is the easy part, though. Having the conversation about your directives with your loved ones is often more difficult.




This downloadable document (it can also be mailed to you) has been completed by millions of people worldwide and translated into 26 languages and Braille. It meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in 42 states, and in the other eight, you can attach it to the specific forms that the state requires.




Another way to raise these issues with your family is by viewing the documentary, Consider the Conversation: A Documentary Film About a Taboo Subject ($29.95). The DVD, created by a hospice worker in partnership with a teacher/filmmaker, explores how and why dying is a topic that most Americans do not want to discuss. Despite enlightenment in other areas — families gather, for instance, in front of televisions to watch reality shows and cable news specials tackling previously taboo subjects, like religion and sex — dying remains off-limits. And yet, it's a topic we need to explore together. Forty years ago people did not live as long as they do today, mostly because we did not have the technology or medical interventions to keep them alive. Because dying today is, however, a long, slow process, it requires more dialogue. Watching this film can spark the conversation about what we would want if we could not express our end-of-life wishes ourselves.


The harsh reality is that if you do not have this conversation, family members can be confused and conflicted and end up having emotional exchanges you would never wish upon them. Dying is not a choice, but how the end will come is. We owe it to our families to share our wishes. Now is the time to start talking.

Photograph of Sherri Snelling
Sherri Snelling 
Sherri Snelling
 is a corporate gerontologist, speaker, and consultant in aging and caregiving. She is the author of “Me Time Monday – The Weekly Wellness Plan to Find Balance and Joy for a Busy Life” and host of the "Caregiving Club On Air" podcast.
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