Boomers: Advance Directives Not Just for the Elderly

Nov 16, 2011 | 1 comment

Boomers who don’t have advance directives to guide medical decision-making are asking for trouble. This is not just about end-of-life planning issues. Changes happen in the blink of an eye.

An Associated poll found that 64 percent of boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — say they don’t have a health care proxy or living will. Those documents would guide medical decisions should a patient be unable to communicate with doctors.

Most people don’t want to think about death, much less plan for it — especially when they feel healthy and young in their middle-age years. And that, some baby boomers say, is one of the big reasons so few of them have end-of-life legal documents such as a living will.

A living will spells out a patient’s wishes for medical care if he or she is unable to communicate with doctors.

The health care proxy, also known as a health care power of attorney, allows an individual to select a person he or she trusts to make decisions about medical care should the patient become incapacitated.

Kathy Brandt said living wills and health care proxies are a good idea for everyone whether they are healthy and young or older and not so healthy.

Brandt, a senior vice president at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, said the two documents can spare families a painful fight and ensure that patients receive — or don’t receive — the medical treatment they wish should they end up in a situation where they can’t speak for themselves.

The living will is not “all or nothing,” said Brandt. A person could say he or she wants everything, something or nothing. For example, one person may want heroic measures taken to prolong life, while another may want to be resuscitated but decide against being dependent on breathing machines long-term.

Brandt pointed to high-profile cases such as the Florida family fight over Terri Schiavo as a smart reason to draft a living will and health care proxy.

A Good Goodbye