Savvy Senior: Create a living will to spell out your end-of-life wishes

Jim Miller provides advice on what to include in a living will.
BY JIM MILLER, For The Oklahoman Published: November 25, 2013

DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: Can you recommend some good resources that can help seniors create a living will?

Getting Old

DEAR GETTING: Creating a living will is one of those things most people plan to do, but rarely get around to actually doing. Less than 30 percent of Americans currently have one. Here's what you should know along with some resources to help you create one.

Advance directives

To adequately spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment, you need two legal documents: A living will, which tells your doctor what kind of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated, and a health care power of attorney (or health care proxy), which names a person you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf.

These two documents are known as an advance directive and will only be utilized if you are too ill to make medical decisions yourself.

You may also want to consider including a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) as part of your advance directive. Doctors and hospitals in all states accept DNR orders.

One other tool you should know about is the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Currently endorsed in 16 states with dozens more in some phase of development, a POLST translates your end-of-life wishes into medical orders to be honored by your doctors.

To learn more or set one up, see


There are several free or low-cost resources available today to help you write your advance directive.

One that's completely free to use is Caring Connections. It provides state-specific advance directive forms with instructions on its website ( that you can download and print for free. Or you can call (800) 658-8898.

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