Nearly three-quarters of U.S. seniors have living wills - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. seniors have living wills

Updated: April 2, 2014 09:13 AM
© iStockphoto / Thinkstock © iStockphoto / Thinkstock

WEDNESDAY, April 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A record number of elderly Americans have living wills that explain their wishes for end-of-life medical care or appoint a surrogate medical decision maker, a new study finds.

The percentage of seniors with living wills -- also called advance directives -- increased from 47 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2010. However, there was little change in hospitalization rates or in-hospital deaths, according to the study.

"Given the aging population, there's been a great push to encourage more people to complete advance directives with the idea that this may increase hospice care and reduce hospitalization for patients during the last six months of life," said study lead author Dr. Maria Silveira. She is an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, and a researcher with the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

"We found that while there's an upward trend in creating these documents, it didn't have much bearing at all on hospitalization rates over the decade. Indeed, hospitalization rates increased during the decade," she said in a university news release. "These are really devices that ensure people's preferences get respected, not devices that can control whether a person chooses to be hospitalized before death."

For the study, published April 2 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the researchers analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, which is conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research on behalf of the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

The rising number of seniors with living wills suggests that Americans are more willing to discuss death and end-of-life planning with loved ones, said Silveira.

"People seem more comfortable having 'the talk' about those dire 'what-if' scenarios and death in general," she said. "It's become part of the routine check list in getting affairs in order, especially for older adults."

Many of these people want to ease the burden upon their loved ones when it comes to handling finances, medical treatment and other matters, Silveira added.

Most elderly people with advance directives appointed a medical decision-making surrogate and outlined their end-of-life treatment preferences. Among those who took only one of those measures, most appointed a surrogate, the study found.

"Identifying the person you trust to make these types of medical decisions isn't as emotional a decision as deciding whether you'd want aggressive treatment or hospice care if you're dying," Silveira said.

"It's much more difficult to make decisions about treatment because it often depends on unforeseeable factors such as how sick the person is, whether his or her brain is working and chances of recovery," she explained.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about advance directives.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Health WatchMore>>

  • House approves VA health care overhaul

    House approves VA health care overhaul

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 9:12 PM EDT2014-07-31 01:12:40 GMT
    With a new Veterans Affairs secretary in place and an August recess looming, Congress is moving quickly to approve a compromise bill to refurbish the VA and improve veterans' health care.
    The House overwhelmingly approved a landmark bill Wednesday to help veterans avoid long waits for health care that have plagued the Veterans Affairs Department for years.
  • $1,000 Sovaldi now hepatitis treatment of choice

    $1,000 Sovaldi now hepatitis treatment of choice

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 8:58 PM EDT2014-07-31 00:58:45 GMT
    A $1,000-per-pill drug that insurers are reluctant to pay for has quickly become the treatment of choice for a liver-wasting viral disease that affects more than 3 million Americans.
    The price is sky-high, but so is demand. A new $1,000-per-pill drug has become the treatment of choice for Americans with hepatitis C, a liver-wasting disease that affects more than 3 million.
  • Deportations halted at New Mexico processing center

    Deportations halted at New Mexico processing center

    Deportations halted at New Mexico processing center

    Artesia, NM - Officials at an immigration processing center in new mexico announced they will be halting all deportations for the time being.
    Artesia, NM - Officials at an immigration processing center in new mexico announced they will be halting all deportations for the time being.
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.