What's Your Plan?

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Every month, we address a health and fitness issue from a management or prevention standpoint. We plan our healthy meals. We plan time in our day to exercise. Most of us are planners. We plan our vacation and make a grocery list before heading off to the store. Many of us in Middle Tennessee have a tornado plan that includes how to get in touch with family, a box of supplies and a safe place to go.

Not everyone will experience a natural disaster like a tornado, but all of us will face death, which can be a disaster without a plan. It's difficult to talk about, but having a death plan is just as "healthy" as having a life plan!

Death is something every person will face. Many do not know how to plan for that. For some, thinking about the end of life causes too much fear; still others believe they will live forever. Like anything else, it helps to have a plan so the end of life doesn't become a disaster for us and those we love.

The last two decades have resulted in some significant changes in end-of-life care. Forty-seven percent of older adults used hospice at the end of their lives, which is more than double the rate in 2000. Nevertheless, studies also show that many still suffer due to an inadequate plan, where death is prolonged from aggressive treatment they did not want or that they could not afford. Life is precious, but by acting as if death is optional, loving family and well-intentioned healthcare providers can make dying much harder than it needs to be.

Begin your plan with a conversation with your family and healthcare provider about end-of-life wishes. Start with the people you love and trust. Tell them what you want in the event of a life-limiting illness, treatments you would or would not want, where you want to spend your last days and who you want to speak for you.

After the conversation, put your wishes down on paper. At best, only 29 percent of Americans have filled out a medical directive (living will, power of attorney for healthcare). Powers of attorney or healthcare agent documents are the best kind. They allow you to name your preferred decision-maker and an alternate as well as indicate your wishes for treatment depending on your quality of life. The documents are available at all hospitals, on the Department of Health's website and do not require an attorney. They are easily filled out and must be witnessed or notarized. Keep the original and give copies to your healthcare providers, family and trusted friends.

Death is a natural part of living, but it can turn into a disaster without a plan. Don't let it. Give your family a gift, plan now for the end of your life.

Corley Roberts, ACSM EP-C, MHA, CPHQ, is an Exercise Physiologist, published author, public speaker, health care professional and founder and CEO of MyFitScript. MyFitScript has been featured on Medscape Inc., CBS Healthwatch, Business and Health Magazine and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Visit www.myfitscript.com for exercise education and programs, or contact Corley at info@myfitscript.com.

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