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Gifting a family with peace of mind this holiday seasons

It is official, the holidays are here. While we are not likely to see snow this holiday season in Los Angeles, it is likely that residents will be seeing a lot of their families. For some residents, sitting around the fire laughing and telling stories from holidays past is a simultaneously heartwarming and saddening experience. While it is wonderful to relive old memories, doing so can cause some to wonder how many memories are left with grandma and grandpa.

It is not uncommon for families to really work to make the holidays special for fear that this is grandma or grandpa's last Thanksgiving, or last time with the whole family together. While the thought of discussing an individual's last wishes at a family gathering can seem to dampen the mood, it can actually be a wonderful opportunity to begin a respectful discussion regarding an individual's health care wishes.

As doctors have made amazing advances in health care, this means that individuals are living longer, often while fighting a chronic disease. While it is wonderful that individuals can have more time to make memories with their families, this can mean that the end is especially difficult, particularly if an individual becomes incapacitated.

According to a study conducted by the California Health Care Foundation, 60 percent of individuals across the state do not want their family to struggle with difficult and sometimes painful health care decisions. However, an overwhelming 71 percent of individuals 65 or older have not broached the subject with their family, which could open the door for dispute and emotional struggling at the close.

Creating an Advanced Health Care Directive can appoint a person that should make important health care decisions should an individual be unable to express their wishes. Further, the sort of measures an individual would or would not like to be taken can also be outlined. Having a conversation when an individual is of sound mind and health can help alleviate the emotional burden families can face when difficult choices need to be made. Preparing these documents and having these conversations now could prove an invaluable gift to an individual's family in the future.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Hospice: Having an End-of-Life Conversation in the Midst of Life, Part 1," Jeanne Dennis, Nov. 15, 2012