Conversations about life’s final chapter

Preparing for future medical decisions — for yourself or a loved one — can help make the experience less scary.

Have you ever sat down with a relative or close friend to talk about what would happen if either of you became unable to make your own health care decisions? Most people haven't. Only about one in three Americans has any type of legal documentation (known as an advance directive) to cover such a situation.

Imagining possible scenarios, such as experiencing a stroke or having advanced heart failure, understandably makes people uncomfortable or scared. But avoiding the topic can leave people unprepared if their health — or the health of a parent, spouse, or friend — suddenly takes a turn for the worse.

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