What You Should Know When Making End-of-Life Decisions

Making end-of-life decisions for another person can be extremely difficult, even if you have the full legal power to do so. Experts who guide people in these choices often suggest this exercise: Imagine the person standing next to you, looking down at himself or herself in bed. What do you think he or she would want to have happen? Can you recall anything he or she once said about a friend or relative in similar straits? Which did he or she seem to prize more: life itself or quality of life?

If you have power of attorney for healthcare decisions, be prepared for these tough choices:

Whether to authorize (or refuse) a particular treatment

  • Feeding tube

  • Oxygen or other breathing assistance

  • Pain medication

  • Hospice care

Whether to authorize (or refuse) the withdrawal of a particular treatment

  • Feeding tube

  • Catheters

  • Medications

  • Life support

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio