Friday 29 August, 2014

More US elderly writing ‘living wills’ ahead of death

Published On: Wed, Apr 2nd, 2014 | Global Health | By BioNews

In a new trend, more elderly people in the US are completing ‘living wills’ to guide end-of-life medical treatments – up from 47 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2010, shows research.

“However, even with nearly double the number of people completing advance wills, there was little difference in hospitalisation rates or deaths in the hospital,” said researchers from University of Michigan and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Given the aging population, there has been a great push to encourage more people to complete advance directives with the idea that this may increase hospice care and reduce hospitalisation for patients during the last six months of life, explained Maria Silveira researcher with the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Silveira says the increase in advanced directives indicates that people are less timid about broaching end-of-life planning and talking about death with loved ones.

“People seem more comfortable having ‘the talk’ about those dire `what-if’ scenarios and death in general,” she added.

People want to ease the burden upon their loved ones who would undoubtedly face difficult decisions when it comes to handling finances, medical treatment and other matters.

Some people may also opt against a living will for cultural reasons, Silveira noted.

For patients who believe families should make these decisions as a group, on their behalf, an advance directive may not be the correct way to prepare for the end of life.

“As a physician, when you help a patient prepare for the end of life, it depends on the patient’s age, their medical conditions and their lifestyle,” Silveira commented.

As a family, it can never be too early to talk about these issues, she added in a paper that appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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