This is not a one-time conversation. Often as one gets older, views on life-prolonging measures change, said Rebecca Allen, a University of Alabama associate psychology professor who specializes in older adults.
Don't put an advance directive in a safe-deposit box. The bank might be closed when your health care agent needs the document. And access can be delayed if only your name is on the safe-deposit box.
Instead, keep one copy for yourself and give others to your health care agent, doctor, lawyer, hospital and family members. Elderly people might want to put a copy on the refrigerator or the inside of the front door, suggested Hart. "Paramedics will look for it," he said. "That document can be brought to the hospital with them in the ambulance."
People need to review their documents at least every five years to make sure they are up-to-date, Gonya said.
Lawyers say they are revising older documents to comply with federal privacy laws so that health care agents can have access to a patient's medical records.
To download help with living wills in pdf format from the Maryland state attorney general's site, go to www.baltimoresun.com/livingwill.
To suggest a topic, contact Eileen Ambrose at 410-332-6984 or by e-mail at eileen.ambrose@baltsun. com.