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How to make sure your advance directives are honored

Everyone hopes for a dignified death -- but what that means from one person to the next is different. That's why advance directives were created. Given the vast capacity to prolong life through medical intervention in today's world, it's necessary for people to say what type of life-sustaining measures they do and don't want for themselves.

However, writing your advance directive is one thing. Making sure that it is properly honored is quite another.

Experts say that if you want to make certain that your wishes are followed when you're no longer able to speak for yourself, it's important to have an in-depth conversation (or several) with your loved ones.

Talking about a period when you are most vulnerable isn't easy. Even though 92 percent of people believe that talking about their end-of-life choices with their loved ones is important, only 32 percent of people ever do. Perhaps even more serious, only 37 percent of people have actually put their wishes in writing.

In addition to talking about your wishes with the person who will hold your medical power of attorney, you need to have the same conversation with a few other important people in your life. Depending on your age and your relationship with those people, you may want to talk to your spouse, your adult children, your parents and your siblings about how you do and do not picture your final hours.

One of the most important points to remember is that you aren't focused on how you want to die -- you're actually focused on how you want to live. Make your feelings about things like assisted breathing, feeding tubes and other life-sustaining medical treatment clear so that your final hours are what you want them to be. Then, make sure that you discuss your goals with an attorney who is experienced in elder law matters and get everything in writing.

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