Two out of three U.S. adults have not completed an advance directive

Advance directives are the primary tool for individuals to communicate their wishes if they become incapacitated and are unable to make their own health care decisions, particularly near the end of life. Despite this, 63 percent of American adults have not completed one, reports the most comprehensive study to date on the subject.

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shared their findings earlier this month in the July issue of Health Affairs.

Here are a few key findings:

  1. Most people put it off. Among more than 795,000 Americans who were part of 150 different studies, 63 percent had not completed any advance directive. Only 29.3 percent had completed a living will that contained specific end-of-life care wishes, and 33.4 percent had designated a healthcare power of attorney.
  2. Even the people who most need an advance directive tend to put it off. Completion of advance directives was nominally higher among patients with chronic illnesses (38.2 percent) than among healthy adults (32.7 percent), and was much higher among patients age 65 and older (45.6 percent) compared with younger adults (31.6 percent). 
  3. If the process were easier, maybe more people would complete these important documents. The study cited several possible improvements, including aligning the content and format of advance directives with issues discussed in advance care planning conversations, and removing legal barriers to executing an advance directive.

Researchers at Penn conducted the systematic review to date to provide benchmark for future policies and practices to encourage completion of advance directives.

If you need assistance completing your advance directive, Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law can help. Just give us a call at 615.824.2571.

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