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Advance Directives Help Assure End-of-Life Wishes Are Honored
Date:3/31/2010

Nearly one-third of those dying needed someone else to make decisions, research finds

WEDNESDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- When people prepare advance directives, such as a living will or a durable power of attorney for health care, most will receive the type of medical care that they've requested as they near the end of their lives, a new study suggests.

The study also found that 30 percent of people required another person to make decisions for them at the end of life. This highlights the need to prepare some kind of advance directive and to discuss end-of-life care wishes with your loved ones before you get sick, the study authors said.

"We conducted an observational study of elderly across the United States, and probably the single most interesting finding was that 29.8 percent needed some form of medical decision-making on their behalf before they died," said the study's lead author, Dr. Maria J. Silveira, a clinician/scientist at the Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research and an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan.

In the group that needed someone to make decisions for them, nearly 70 percent had completed an advance directive, according to results of the study, published in the April 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Another study in the same issue of the journal also underscored the need for advance planning for end-of-life care. It found that during the last year of life, fewer than one in five people has no disability that interferes with daily living activities. Over the 10-year study period, nearly 50 percent of the study's older adult participants, who had been healthy and had no disabilities at the start of the study, had a progressive or persistently severe disability. The researchers said these disabilities didn't follow a common pattern and would be difficult to predict ahead of time.

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