When it comes to health care decisions for elderly Florida residents, many are unprepared. It can be intimidating to think about, but along with making a will when estate planning, there needs to be a plan for who will make decisions that honor your wishes when it comes to your medical care.

Florida residents can take their lead from physicians. A 2003 survey of 745 doctors found that 64 percent of participants had an advanced directive, a document that outlines their wishes when it comes their medical care when they can't make those decisions on their own. Sadly, only 20 percent of the public has taken these same measures.

And surprisingly, even with better medicine and treatment available as compared to years ago, many physicians choose to forego treatment when faced with a terminal condition. But more regular patients are dying away from home than in years past, one doctor contends. He argues that doctors are hesitant to tell patients what they would do when faced with a no-win situation, and many choose treatment that could keep them alive for a few more, albeit painful, months or years.

The doctor argues that hospitals are not the place for one to live out the rest of his or her life comfortably.

But what's most important is that an advanced directive gives a person control over the decisions that are made about their care. It is okay to choose life-extending treatment, if that is what the patient wants. But it's important to realize that estate planning decisions about what happens when one is still alive are just as important as decisions about what happens after one dies.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Why Doctors Die Differently," Ken Murray, Feb. 25, 2012