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The Price of Silence: The hidden cost of not sharing your preferences in advance

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No one likes to think about the day when they are incapacitated due to a sudden illness. Even fewer people like to talk about it. Just try bringing it up with your spouse or your kids. It’s not easy.

Let’s say you have a stroke, the kind that takes away your ability to move and speak. One minute, you’re functioning like normal. The next, you are completely incapacitated, but you can still hear. You can hear the doctors discussing your treatment plan. You can hear the nurses discussing your prognosis. It’s not easy hearing them talk about you like you’re not even there, but that’s not the worst of it.

The worst part is the TV in your room. It’s tuned to a news channel that you find distasteful; one that you never watch; one that you hate.

If you had your way, you would turn it off.

Only you can’t.

If you had your way, you would ask someone else to turn it off.

Only you can’t.

All you can do is listen.

Having the TV tuned to the wrong news channel may seem like the last thing you should be worried about during a life-threatening illness, but when you’re trapped listening to something you hate and can’t do anything to turn it off, it can feel like torture. If you’re a conservative Republican, imagine being forced to listen to Rachel Maddow. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, imagine the channel tuned to Fox News all day.

Just imagine.

Incapacity doesn’t make your preferences any less valid. In fact, being forced to experience things you abhor will make a bad experience exponentially worse.

How can you keep this from happening? Don’t look to your legal documents. They won’t help you. Your advance directive doesn’t address issues like these, nor does your financial plan. If you’re serious about making sure that the people who will be caring for you know all of your preferences for living, even the seemingly “little” things like what you like to watch on TV, here’s a good place to start.

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