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Those of us who grew up in the Protestant tradition may have heard the story about the drowning person who successively refused a life preserver, a help into a passing boat, and a helicopter rescue, announcing, “God will save me.” Often we seem to think that we can refuse a healthy diet, good exercise and sleep, and an active mental and social life, announcing, “The doctors will save me.”

Reducing Health Risks

It is up to us to do what we can to maintain our health and ability to function. We can greatly lower the risk of the three leading causes of death (heart attack, cancer and stroke) and of the risk of dementia by getting sufficient sleep and exercise and maintaining a healthy weight on a Mediterranean or pesco-vegetarian diet. We can greatly lower the risk of the fourth leading cause of death (covid) by being vaccinated, boosted and masked.

Empowering Healthcare Choices

There are other steps we can take to avoid or lessen disability and postpone the need for assistance and the eventuality of death. I urge you to commit to them.

  • I carry notifications of allergies and emergency contacts at all times.
  • I conduct doctor and healthcare provider background checks.
  • I track and update my medical and medication history.
  • I am committed to following the doctor’s instructions.
  • I choose to get educated about my illness and conduct my own research.
  • I come to every doctor appointment with questions.
  • I keep asking questions until I fully understand the answers.
  • I invite advocates to accompany me to important health-care appointments.
  • I have a Medical Power of Attorney.
  • I fully understand DNR/DNI/DNH guidelines.


Joy Loverde, Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old (New York: Da Capo Press, 2017)


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, CELA, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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