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March 28, 2024

National Health-Care Decisions Day

Erica Costello

The PDF for this issue which includes footnotes and endnotes can be found at here.

According to a 2018 national survey conducted by The Conversation Project, while 92% of people say it is important to discuss their wishes for end-of-life care, only 32% have had such conversations. These statistics show that while advanced planning is important, many people do not create plans for their future care or nominate people to make decisions in the event of their later incapacity.

Take this common scenario: Ms. Smith is admitted to the hospital with late-stage dementia and heart failure. She lives alone and does not have any identifiable friends or family members. Due to her cognitive and functional limitations, doctors at the hospital have determined that she is unable to make decisions regarding her care and are recommending 24-hour care and supervision. Unfortunately, Ms. Smith did not engage in advanced care planning and does not have a Power of Attorney or Health Care Representative that can make decisions on her behalf. As a result, the hospital will likely seek a court-appointed guardian or health care representative because advanced planning did not occur.

The scenario provided above is avoidable as advanced planning is one of the keys to preventing unnecessary guardianships. To better assist people with their health care and financial advanced planning needs, the Commission on Law and Aging (COLA) has several great resources, including:   

It is also important to note that April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) in the United States. To honor this day, COLA will be hosting a special episode on our “Advocates of Aging” podcast to discuss the importance of health care decision-making and advanced planning documents. You can listen to this episode on our website at Advocates of Aging Podcast  or by subscribing to our YouTube Channel. (Make sure to also check out Karren Jo Pope-Onwukwe’s article, “Can One Person Make a Difference: Celebrating National Healthcare Decisions Day” in this issue of Bifocal.) 

For more information and resources on health care planning guides and tools, you can go to: Health Care Planning Guides and Tools.
For information on the Mind Your Loved Ones (MYLO) Smartphone App, which allows individuals to store their health care advance directives and other key medical information such as medications, physician contacts, insurance information, medical notes, any other materials important to them, you can go to: Mind Your Loved Ones.

Advanced planning is critical to supporting the needs of people as they age. As practitioners in the field of aging, we must do a better job in helping people to have these types of important conversations and assist them in planning for their future care.

COLA continues to be committed to bringing you up-to-date information and resources to assist people with their advanced planning needs. Stay connected to COLA on our website and social media channels, including Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to be notified of new resources and updates to existing resources.

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    Erica Costello

    Associate Director, ABA Commission on Law and Aging