A study published in the January 2014 edition of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine looks at adults in the U.S. who did and did not have an advance directive. Researchers were interested in what factors may be barriers to completing an advance directive.
Of the more than 7,900 respondents to the survey, 26.3% had an advance directive. Lake of awareness was cited at the most common reason an individual did not have an advance directive.
Those who were older in age, had higher levels of education and income were associated with greater likelihood of completion of advance directives. People who had completed an advance directive were more likely to have a chronic disease as well a access to care. Additionally, non-white survey participants were less likely to have completed an advance directive.
“The importance of having an advance directive benefits not only the individual but the family members and other professional health care providers that may need to care for someone facing a serious or life-limiting illness. An advance directive can be a gift to family and loved ones,” noted J. Donald Schumacher, President and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “Equally important are the frank conversations that loved ones have with each other and care providers about the care that they would or would not want.
The term advance directive describes two types of legal documents that enable you to plan for and communicate your end-of-life wishes in the event that you are unable to communicate: A living will and medical power of attorney. The living will allows a person to state what care they would or would not want when facing a medical crisis. The medical power of attorney (sometimes called a healthcare proxy) appoints someone to speak on a person’s behalf if that person is unable to speak for him or herself. Some states in the U.S. combine the living will and medical power of attorney in one advance directive document, while some states have separate documents.
NHPCO’s Caring Connections consumer-focused website offers free state-specific advance directives and information to help people have those essential converations about care choices. Visit www.CaringInfo.org/planningahead to learn more.