Taking Action for your Parents: What you need to know about living wills

TAMPA - As a devoted daughter, Linda Marie Holiday was hesitant to talk about end of life planning with her father. So she was grateful when he brought it up first.

"10 years ago, my father said we need to sit down and put some documents in place so you don't have trouble. So he had the foresight," said Holliday.

Her father, 83-year-old Allen Stewart, now has both a will and a living will, known in Florida as a "health care advanced directive."   Holiday says she knows she won't have to decide whether to pull the plug because her father doesn't want a plug in the first place.

"I don't voluntarily want stay around as long as I possibly can. I don't want to do that," Stewart.
 
Elder law expert Rebecca Morgan says we all need to have that uncomfortable conversation and then put it in writing.

"Baby boomers, we think we're going to live forever and be young forevers. But you know things happens and if you make plans, it makes things easier on your family," said Morgan.

"Some may choose to have a DNR or do not resuscitate order that must be on file at their hospital if your parent has been admitted and kept at home," Morgan explains, "Something happens, the paramedics are called, the family member pulls out the do not resuscitate order, it's on a golden colored piece of paper. They will honor that."

Our legal experts also recommend appointing a health care surrogate to make sure your wishes are carried out.

"You may appoint one of your children to be your health care surrogate and another child disagrees because that child just doesn't want to let mom go for example. So whoever you pick as your surrogate has to be willing to stand up and make the decision you want," said Morgan.

As for Allan Stewart, he's been able to pass one more valuable lesson to his children.

"The wonderful thing about it is that he taught us so well, both my husband and I and my brother we now have all the same documents in place should anything happen to us," said Holiday.

ABC Action News is Taking Action For Your Parents by focusing on a different aspect of your parents' lives that you can help them plan for. Watch reports on air or online through August.

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