Rise in dementia underscores need to plan care ahead / Public News Service
This Saturday is National Healthcare Decisions Day, emphasizing the importance of planning ahead for your healthcare decisions.
Kim Callinan, president and CEO of Compassion & Choices, which works to improve patient rights and advocates for individual choice at the end of life, said a growing number of older Americans are being diagnosed with dementia, which which underlines the need to think about the future.
“One in two older people now die with or because of dementia and sadly most don’t foresee what the end might be like,” Callinan pointed out. “Without planning, you leave your loved ones and caregivers to make heartbreaking decisions about what care you receive or don’t receive at the end of life.”
According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State has the ninth highest death rate from Alzheimer’s disease in the nation.
Callinan noted that the rising rate of dementia is partly the result of advances in life-extending medicine, reducing deaths from diseases like pneumonia and influenza. However, she said end-of-life care can also include serious interventions — like CPR, which can break ribs, or intubation — that might only make sense for a healthy person.
“But for someone with advanced dementia or terminal illness, you’re subjecting yourself to aggressive interventions that probably won’t prolong your life, but will prolong your suffering,” Callinan argued.
Compassion & Choices has an online Dementia Values and Priorities tool that allows people to identify when they would like to forgo treatments and allow a natural death.
Callinan added that it can be especially helpful for people who want to document their care preferences.
“On National Healthcare Decisions Day, I encourage everyone to have conversations with your loved ones about the care you would want at the end of life,” Callinan urged.
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