Are you too young for an advance care plan?
If you can drive a car, you can make a plan

Recently, I was talking to a friend about advance care planning and end of life care. I asked him whether he had a plan and he responded, “Oh, I’m much too young for that – maybe when I’m older.”

While it’s true that most people tend to die when they are older, the fact is that some of us will either be incapacitated or arrive at the end of life sooner than we expect –perhaps as a result of an accident, an illness or a sudden stroke. When this happens, family members are often left having to make decisions about your care during a traumatic time with little or no time for reflection about what you might have wanted.

Research indicates that this can have a lasting impact – a 2008 study found that the absence of Advance Care Planning or end of life care discussions was associated not only with worse patients’ ratings of quality of life at the end, but also increased anxiety and depression in caregivers. Often, family members are wracked with guilt months after the death, wondering if they made the right decisions. Some have even gone on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Why would we put our loved ones through this added angst? Instead of delaying the conversation until it’s too late, perhaps it’s time to normalize reality and approach end of life issues head on when we’re healthy and able to do so.

What if we start by including advance care planning information in driver’s license applications? Given that motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death for young adults, this could provide both an introduction to the conversation and an opportunity for sober reflection before stepping behind the wheel. Those who are old enough to operate a motor vehicle are arguably also old enough to outline their wishes for care.

You can’t predict when you’ll die – but you can prepare for that inevitable reality, while giving your loved ones the confidence to act on your behalf without guilt or worry. It’s never too early to begin.