Apr 21, 2010

Study Shows that Advance Directives Help Elders Get the Care They Want

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that one in four elder adults need someone else to make decisions for them at the end of their lives.

"The results illustrate the value of people making their wishes known in a living will and designating someone to make treatment decisions for them, the researchers said," The Associated Press reports. "In the study, those who spelled out their preferences in living wills usually got the treatment they wanted. Only a few wanted heroic measures to prolong their lives.

As summarized in the LA Times: Those who requested limited care at the end of their lives received it most of the time. The study used data from the long-running Health and Retirement Study, which surveys adults ages 51 and older nationwide. In analyzing data from people ages 60 and older who died between 2000 and 2006, researchers found that of the 398 incapacitated people who had used a living will to request limited care at the end of life, almost 83% received it.

For a guide to making informed decisions regarding elder care, see Long-Term Care, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).