60-Second Health

Many More Americans Issue End-of-Life Instructions

The number of Americans aged 60 or more who issued advance directives governing their end-of-life care went from 47 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2010. Dina Fine Maron reports


Most people don’t like to think about death, much less plan for it. Many Americans have thus failed to officially record their wishes should they be faced with catastrophic circumstances that, for example, would require them to be placed on a ventilator for survival. 
But a survey finds that Baby Boomers seem more willing than prior generations to issue advance directives, including documents like living wills that would spare loved ones the burden of making end-of-life decisions for them.
In 2000, only 47 percent of Americans more than 60 years old had filled out key forms spelling out their desires or designating a person legally empowered to fulfill their wishes. By 2010, 72 percent of that age group had done the paperwork.

The findings come from what’s called the Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing research effort funded by the National Institute on Aging and Social Security Administration. Data from some 6,000 middle-aged and elderly adults went into this part of the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. [Maria J. Silveira, Wyndy Wiitala and John Piette, Advance Directive Completion by Elderly Americans: A Decade of Change]

The American Medical Association says it is committed to promoting the use of advance directives to ensure that health care workers and family members act in accordance with a patient's wishes.

—Dina Fine Maron
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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