While many seniors have had a Last Will & Testament set up for years, many older folks (and their loved ones) are not fully aware of the need or sure on how to start preparing a “living will”. Even if one is familiar with it and its purpose, it can be particularly difficult to set up because of the advanced directives it specifies and the host of feelings it may arouse among family members.

Otherwise, a living will (a form that sets out one’s wishes for medical care and provides instructions on types of care that should or should not be given) is fairly easy to set up and very important to have on hand, particularly for elderly family members or those who are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of memory loss.

A living will is a form, and while it doesn’t require a lawyer, it will need to be signed, and witnessed or notarized (or both). Aside from engaging an attorney to coordinate and set up your living will, the form for the document can be found at hospitals, physician’s offices, online, or at an assisted living community or healthcare center.

The living will is designed to dictate what kind of health care should be provided for someone if they are incapacitated and/or unable to speak on their own behalf. Such pre-determined decisions on one’s health care direction can range from blood transfusions, CPR, respirators, and life support to procedures for intravenous feeding or pain management.

Often this form will be paired with a Power of Attorney in which one names a specific and responsible individual, often referred to as the POA, to make health care decisions on their behalf. Carefully consider each element of care, and be specific about what your desires are. For help explaining wishes to family members or understanding elements of a living will, reach out to support groups, physicians, reputable caregivers or an attorney experienced in eldercare services and law.