How many times have we disagreed with the choice made in a TV show or movie when someone is so sick or injured that a decision has to be made whether to keep them alive on life support or let them go?
Have you said “I wouldn’t want that to happen to me” or “if I’m in that situation I hope they do the same for me”?
Have you done anything to document your desire or told those nearest you?
Would you know what to do if it were a senior loved one in that situation — what they would want you to do if they are not able to make their wishes known at the time?
Seniors’ End of Life Wishes
More than 70% of Americans told Pew Research, in a 2005 survey, they had given thought to their end of life medical decisions, with half of those saying they had given it a great deal of thought.
Do you know how your senior loved ones feel about those decisions? The 2005 Pew survey heard these responses when asking what people would tell their doctor.
- 56% of seniors said they would want treatment stopped if in a great deal of pain as a result of disease and had no hope of improvement
- 46% of seniors said they would want treatment stopped if unable to function day to day as a result of disease and had no hope of improvement
- 50% of seniors said they would want treatment stopped if they had a disease that made them totally dependent on a family member for care
Only 27%, 35% and 29%, respectively, of seniors said they would tell their doctor to save their lives in those situations. Interestingly, even higher percentages of those aged 50 to 64 (many of whom are now seniors themselves) said they would want treatment stopped in those situations.
Knowing how we want those end of life decisions handled is not enough, since so many facing those situations are not in a position to speak for themselves.
Document Wishes in a DNR or Advance Directive
It is certainly important to explain these wishes with those who are closest but in order to have those wishes honored by healthcare providers and facilities it is often necessary to make a legally binding declaration in advance. That is typically done in what is called Advance Directives, DNR or a Living Will.
A nationwide effort of organizations in the U.S to highlight the importance of advance healthcare decision making has culminated in the designation of April 16 as National Healthcare Decisions Day.
If you haven’t done so already, you might use this occasion as a conversation starter with your senior loved ones so you can find out how they feel. Don’t stop with the talk, though. Urge them – or even help them – to get their wishes documented in a legally enforceable way. Your attorney can help you to do so and often local organizations will have the information you need. If you would rather do it yourself but want to make sure the wishes are made legal, we suggest checking out what LegalZoom has to offer. Many find them to be an effective and lower cost alternative to consulting an attorney.
If you had that discussion with your senior loved ones some time ago, you might still use National Healthcare Decisions Day as a reason to check and see if they still feel the same way. If their wishes have changed, be sure the current wishes are reflected in their advance directives or living will to be sure those are followed rather than those they put in place previously.
We wish you the best in these discussions with your senior loved ones – – and hope they are not needed for some time.