Advance Directives Are Key to Ensuring You Get Only the End-of-Life Care You Want
Since only one in four Americans has completed an advance directive indicating their end-of-life healthcare wishes, Compassion & Choices today urged all Americans to “Make Your Plan” for National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) on April 16. Compassion & Choices is holding dozens of local events throughout the country to encourage and help people to discuss their end-of-life wishes with their families and fill out their advance directives.
An advance directive actually is two legal documents that enable people to express their end-of-life healthcare wishes to their family and healthcare providers if they become unable to communicate: 1) a living will and 2) medical power of attorney. Most people do not want to die in a hospital. They want to die at home, surrounded by their loves ones. Advance directives increase the chances of that happening. In fact, advance directives are associated with a lower likelihood of patients dying in the hospital, according to a 2011 study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“The sad reality is that if you do not put your end-of-life wishes in writing, medical professionals are likely to recommend invasive and painful ‘treatments’ that may extend the dying process and reduce the quality of life,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “Completing an advance directive arms your loved ones with evidence of your wishes and formally notifies healthcare providers.”
Compassion & Choices offers free advance directive forms and consultation resources. You can download state-specific forms as well as other valuable planning tools at compassionandchoices.org or order them by calling our toll-free number: 800.247.7421.
They include our exclusive Good to Go Resource Guide, which provides ideas, inspiration and information on thorough, effective end-of-life preparation. We also offer an exclusive dementia provision users can add to the advance directive. An estimated 5.2 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Most advance directives take effect only when you are unable to make healthcare decisions and are either ‘permanently unconscious’ or ‘terminally ill,’” said Coombs Lee. “They usually do not apply to severe dementia alone. Adding a dementia provision ensures that families and physicians have a healthcare guide for the estimated half a million people who will die this year from Alzheimer’s.”
To prompt discussion of advance care planning, Compassion & Choices is inviting people to share bold graphics and the taglines “Ask me” and “Tell me” from our Facebook page (facebook.com/CompassionandChoices).
Compassion & Choices, in collaboration with 14 leading aging and healthcare organizations, is conducting “The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment” to encourage healthcare providers and institutions to honor patients’ wishes.
With more than 30 local groups and 60,000 members and supporters throughout the United States, Compassion & Choices leads the end-of-life choice movement. We support, educate and advocate. Learn more at: www.compassionandchoices.org.