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Seniors increase use of living wills by over 40 percent in 10 years

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University of Michigan study found that between 2000 and 2010, the number of seniors with living wills (Advance Directives) increased from 47 percent to 72 percent.  Despite that significant change, hospitalization rates and in-hospital deaths remained pretty much the same, according to the study which was published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society.

The study authors found that older people are becoming more comfortable with having the “talk” about end-of-life decisions.  But that hasn’t parsed out to meaning a greater use of hospice or reduced hospitalization during the last six months of life.  Instead, people are using the living wills to ensure that their preferences are being respected rather than to modify their behavior.  In fact, when people choose between having a surrogate or creating medical decisions rather than both, the study authors found they were far more likely to choose a surrogate.

What the study didn’t determine was if seniors are becoming more comfortable with having the talk, does that mean that their families are becoming more comfortable with the need for the talk?  As Elder Law Attorney, Rajiv Nagaich says repeatedly, “Aging is a family affair.”  If you’re a member of the younger generation, you need to be open to having that discussion so that if your elderly family members bring it up you don’t shut it down.

The study authors determined that the reason a higher number of people chose a surrogate over choosing to create documents outlining their medical decisions was because choosing a surrogate is a far less emotional decision than deciding whether you’d want aggressive treatment or hospice care if you’re dying.  I disagree.  I think it takes a tremendous amount of trust to lean on someone else’s determination about whether or not a specific situation is the one you would consider “the” situation.  After all, you’re relying upon someone else to determine when you would find dying an acceptable solution.  To me, one option is black and white, the other option allows a bit of gray in the decision making.  What do you think?  Would you prefer talking to your children or loved ones about your decision or would you rather make those choices solo and hope that when the time comes, health care providers will correctly interpret your wishes?

To find out why “Aging is a family affair,” attend a free LifePlanning seminar because aging is a complicated business.  Find out all you need to know to do it successfully.

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