Don’t Put Off Your Advance Care Plan

Did you know that two thirds of American adults have done nothing to plan ahead for the healthcare they might need if they’re incapacitated?

It’s a sobering statistic, one that comes from a 2017 study done by the University of Pennsylvania1. Among the 795,909 Americans from the 150 included studies, researchers found that 36.7 percent had completed some form of Advance Directive. Only 29.3 percent had completed an Advance Directive that contains actual care wishes, and 33.4 percent had designated a Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Why do so many people put off this important task? More than a few loathe the idea of talking about anything involving age-related illness, disability, frailty, and death, as though talking about these things might make them happen. Others are reluctant to create Advance Directives because they worry that they won’t get any care at all if they say they don't want CPR. To them, the Advance Directive is an intimidating document that says, “Let me die—no matter what.”

The study also showed that people older than age 65 were significantly more likely to complete any type of Advance Directive than younger ones — 46 percent of older people, versus 32 percent of those who were younger. But the difference between people who were healthy and those who were sick when they filled out the directive was much smaller — 33 percent compared with 38 percent.

Attorneys at Life Care Planning Law Firms encounter this resistance to advance care planning among many of their older clients, and it can be even harder for younger people to broach the subject about their own lives. No one likes to think about the reality that you never know when something’s going to happen that would make it impossible for you to make your own healthcare decisions. High profile cases involving people like Terry Schiavo, a young woman who was kept a live for many years while her husband and her parents fought over here care, drive home the need to make these critical decisions now.

When you’re ready to get serious about advance care planning, the steps are the same for everyone, regardless of age. The easiest place to start is to think about whom you would trust to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you were incapacitated in an accident or sidelined by an unexpected illness. That person—known as your Healthcare Agent —can be anyone you trust. It might be a spouse, a child, a sibling, or someone else.

Once you’ve selected your Healthcare Agent, the next step is to draft a Healthcare Power of Attorney, which legally designates the person you choose to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. State laws vary on the exact criteria for creating a Healthcare Power of Attorney and it is always a good idea to consult an attorney to ensure the document is drafted properly. Creating an Advance Directive, a document that allows a person to choose the type of care received at the end of life, usually follows.

If you’re on Medicare, a program called Voluntary Advance Care Planning pays physicians to counsel beneficiaries about advance-care planning. This gives you a way to talk to your doctor about Advance Care Planning issues, with or without completing legal forms.

Taking a few moments to document your wishes and preferences might be the very thing that gives you some measure of control over the way your life comes to an end. It’s also a wonderful gift to family members who won’t have the burden of guessing what you might have wanted. When you’re ready to get started, a Life Care Planning Law Firm can help. Find one near you.