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MO Attorneys: Make Your End-of-Life Care Wishes Known

Power of Attorney, Living Will and Estate plan
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Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Estate Plan documents

April 16th was National Health Care Decisions Day, and groups in Missouri urged residents to make a plan for their end-of-life care in case they are not able to express their wishes.

Some 120,000 Missourians age 65 and older live with Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia in older adults.

John Grimm, president of the Missouri Bar, said having an advance directive -- a written statement of medical-care preferences -- can prevent family members or other loved ones from having to guess what you might want.

"It can be a difficult decision, and it can be tough to think about these things," Grimm acknowledged. "But it's important to think these things through and to make your end-of-life care wishes known."

Grimm added the Missouri Bar has free forms on its website to help folks get their wishes down on paper, including a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Health Care Directive, and a HIPAA Privacy Authorization form, with or without instructions. Residents can also request the forms by mail if it is more convenient.

Grimm added the forms are simple. He noted it is important to read through and consider all the options carefully, pick a health care proxy, and decide what responsibilities you want that person to have.

"These forms can talk about their wishes regarding organ donation, their wishes regarding life-prolonging procedures and those sorts of things," Grimm outlined. "And it's not easy, but it is very important, and it can really be helpful to family members down the road."

As the Alzheimer's and dementia rates among older Americans grow, experts on end-of-life care emphasized advance directives are far less common than they should be. An analysis by the Alzheimer's Association estimated by 2060, nearly 14 million Americans will have Alzheimer's or dementia, compared with about five million in 2014.