Making sure family, loved ones know your future medical wishes

MEDIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- Planning ahead is tough, because no one can predict the future.

But there is one plan every adult, particularly seniors, SHOULD make for your medical care in the future.

Larry Singer was a stickler for details during his career in video production.

Now in retirement, he's tending to another important detail - drawing up an advance directive, commonly called a living will.

"It allows you to say in advance what medical treatments you would want - and what medical treatments you might not want," says Linda Sterhous, executive director at Wesley Enhanced Living Main Line.

Sterthous says residents are encouraged to have living wills and power of attorney documents on file there.

"We keep that on file with their medical records," she says.

Singer says having several serious ailments taught him to make the decisions now, or -

"Somebody else is going to make decisions that are not right for you," he says.

You don't need an attorney to make a living will.

Dr. Heidi Syropoulos of Independence Blue Cross says you can do it yourself with documents like "5 Wishes."

It is written in everyday words, available in 28 languages, and valid in 42 states.

"It's a neat document that not only has a legal aspect to it, but a spiritual and personal aspect," says Dr. Syropoulos.

It covers medical wishes, as well as personal and spiritual needs.

For example: Who should make decisions for you?
What kind of medical treatment do you want?
How comfortable do you want to be?
Where do I want to be?
What do you want your loved ones to know?

"You can be very specific, or you can be quite general," says Dr. Syropoulos.

And "You can always change your mind," she adds.

Sterthous and Dr. Syropoulos both say they made living wills earlier in their adult lives, and they hope others will, too.

"Parents with young children, middle-aged people, everyone who's an adult should have a living will," says Sterthous.

"Unfortunately, you never know what might happen, and you want to say in advance what your wishes would be," she adds.

And Dr. Syropoulos notes, "The younger you are, the more you think about this with a rational mind."

"Talk to your faith community, talk to your doctor, talk to your family, talk to people you really trust, so that you can really kind of answer some of the questions in your mind - how do I want to spend the last days of my life if I have control over that?"

But if you do make a living will, be sure your doctor, family members, and loved ones have copies.

Arlene Lush & her husband made theirs 10 years ago, but when they moved to WEL Main Line, the documents got tucked away in a closet.

"No one, not even our daughter, would know where they were!" she says.

They are now where they should be - with her medical records.

"And I feel much better," she adds.
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