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So You Want to Make Everyone's Life a Whole Lot Easier

If your family member, friend or neighbor became ill or incapacitated, would you or their doctor know how to respond? Simple advance directives such as living wills and healthcare powers of attorney can communicate emergency and end-of-life wishes, eliminating the burden on a patient’s family and friends. And with a few simple clicks and a little effort, you can volunteer to help put these plans into place.

Know the rules. Then get the forms.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, advance directives are legally valid throughout the United States. And while a lawyer isn’t needed to fill out the documents, they become valid when signed in front of the required witnesses. Laws governing advance directives vary from state to state, so it’s important to complete and sign them in accordance with your state's law. Attorneys routinely prepare these documents as part of comprehensive estate plans, but you can also help prepare them others, or yourself, using AARP’s free printable forms.

Download your state’s advance directives here.

Identify who’s cool under pressure.

Before you help someone complete an advanced directive, it’s important that they select the right person who will make decisions on their behalf. This healthcare “agent” should be someone who knows them well, remains calm during a crisis, and is capable of reassuring and communicating with the family. They also need to have a discussion about their priorities. Here are a few questions the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization suggests everyone discuss with their healthcare agent:

  • Are there treatments you particularly want to receive or refuse?
  • What are your views about artificial nutrition (food) and hydration (fluid)?
  • If your heart stopped, under what circumstances would you want doctors to use CPR to try to resuscitate you?
  • Would you want to receive treatments such as mechanical ventilation, antibiotics or tube feeding for a time, but have them stopped if there was no improvement in your condition?

Get more information about selecting a healthcare agent, or developing your own advance directives, here.

Help Women in Your Community Live Longer, and Smarter.

AARP’s Living Longer, Living Smarter campaign is designed to help women in their 40s, 50s and 60s take steps today so they’ll be adequately prepared for a safe, healthy and secure tomorrow. At Living Longer, Living Smarter, you’ll find a virtual treasure trove of tips, tools and information on topics from planning where to live and what's required to maintain health, to finances and legal issues including wills and durable powers of attorney.

An integral component of the Living Longer, Living Smarter campaign is the Women to Women: Living Longer, Living Smarter Facilitator’s Guide. This printable guide can be a roadmap for your own long-term care planning journey, but it was designed to make it easier to help others make plans of their own. After reviewing the guide, consider making arrangements with your neighbors and friends to use the guide in developing their own plans. Or take it a step further and organize a larger event for your community. Make sure attendees explicitly understand that you are not providing legal or financial advice, but merely providing a framework for a better understanding of what they’ll need to properly prepare.

Find more information about important legal documents and long-term planning, here.

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Fraud Prevention for the DIY-er

Create the Good has a do-it-yourself toolkit to help you make a difference in your community by empowering your neighbors to take a stand against fraud. With just two a few hours of your time, Operation Fight Fraud will show you how to help others check their credit reports, remove information from call lists and shred personal documents with sensitive information. No special skills are required.