Planning ahead, being aware and understanding your loved one’s end of life decisions and wishes is an important part of care giving.

A recent article by Amy Hosier, extension specialist for family life, looks at the topic of advanced directives and the part they should play in the lives of seniors.

Hosier says that a living will or advance directive is a written legal document that allows a person to record preferences and instructions for medical and end-of-life care if a time comes when they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.

The documents often describe a person’s wishes regarding topics such as resuscitation, life quality and end of life treatments, including treatments that a person does not want to receive, explained Hosier in her article, which appeared in the Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service Health Bulletin.

Other decisions such as pain management and organ donation can also be documented.

Advanced directives are not set in stone. They can be revised and updated. They come into play when a person is unconscious or too ill to communicate or make decisions for themselves. As long as a person can make a competent decision, an advanced directive is not used and a person can accept o refuse medical treatment.

It is important that family and health care providers are aware of the choices and that they stay informed when changes are made.

In addition to spelling out end of life wishes, Kentucky’s living wills allow a person to designate a health care proxy or medical or health care power of attorney, Hosier said.

In Kentucky, one does not need a lawyer to draft a living will.

For a form and packet from the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General, call (502) 696-5300 or downloaded it at: