National Healthcare Decisions Day April 16, 2010
Many Americans are unaware of a National Day to promote the early development of plans for you and your loved ones during specific medical necessities and adverse situations. April 16, 2008 was the first day the US designed to promote awareness and the need for Americans to discuss and (hopefully) execute medical decision-making plans for their families. What is an advance directive?
An advance directive is a written way of deciding your medical wishes known in advance of a specific medical situation. All adults can benefit from thinking about what their healthcare choices would be if they are unable to speak for themselves. These decisions can be written down in an advance directive so that others know what they are. Advance directives come in two main forms:
• A "healthcare power of attorney" (or "proxy" or "agent" or "surrogate") documents the person you select to be your voice for your healthcare decisions if you cannot speak for yourself.
• A "living will" documents what kinds of medical treatments you would or would not want at the end of life.
Did you know that:
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (www.ahrq.gov), in a 2003 article, “Advance Care Planning: Preferences for Care at the End of Life,” found the following:
• Less than 50 percent of the severely or terminally ill patients studied had an advance directive in their medical record.
• Only 12 percent of patients with an advance directive had received input from their physician in its development.
• Between 65 and 76 percent of physicians whose patients had an advance directive were not aware that it existed.
More Americans Discussing – and Planning – End-of-Life Treatment. The Pew Research Center, January 2006. http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/266.pdf.
• 42% of Americans have had a friend or relative suffer from a terminal illness or coma in the last five years and for a majority of these people and 23% of the general public, the issue of withholding life sustaining treatment came up.
• An overwhelming majority of the public supports laws that give patients the right to decide whether they want to be kept alive through medical treatment.
• By more than eight-to-one (84%-10%), the public approves of laws that let terminally ill patients make decisions about whether to be kept alive through medical treatment.
• One of the most striking changes between 1990 and 2005 is the growth in the number of people who say they have a living will – up 17 points, from 12% in 1990 to 29% now.
• Having a living will was associated with lower probability of dying in a hospital for nursing home residents and people living in the community.
• During advance care planning, physicians should discuss patients’ preferences for locations of death.
Where can I get an advance directive?
Aging With Dignity (Five Wishes) The Five Wishes document helps individuals express care options and preferences. The advance directive meets the legal requirements in most states and is available in 20 languages for a nominal fee. Order online or call 850.681.2010.
Please consider visiting the Healthcare Decisions website to become a more informed healthcare advocate and plan to discuss these advanced directives options with your patients, employees, and families as soon as possible. The website contains valuable forms that can be downloaded for use in developing your advanced directives.