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Why the young and healthy should think about advance directives?

Young people are likely to shy away from making decisions about their future health care, thinking they can put it off until later. The truth is, one can never be too young or too healthy to engage in advance health care planning.

Such planning is no longer just about aging or end-of-life care. It addresses the hypothetical situation in which a medical emergency leaves a person unable to communicate their particular health wishes.

People often mistakenly assume that close family members will instinctively know their preferences regarding end-of-life care or medical treatments. However, without having specific instructions, loved ones are left to rely on guesswork. This can cause conflict among families and uncertainty as to whether the right decision was made.

The only way to ensure that one’s choices will be respected is to put them in writing in a legal document. An advance health care directive allows individuals to outline their preferences about various health care decisions ahead of time so that others know about them. It covers matters such as life support, organ donation, palliative care and medical treatment. A durable power of attorney for health care gives a person, such as a loved one, the authority to make health decisions on one’s behalf.

Advance directives are not just for the terminally ill. Having such a document in place is vital regardless of age or health status. Without one, a person’s wishes are likely to be ignored if he or she is unable to speak or make decisions for themselves.

While it may never feel like the right time to draft health care documents, it is important to get organized now rather than later. To best protect oneself, it is best to address the topic advance directives head-on.