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Adults Failing to Plan for Later Life

New research from the US has found that as many as 25% of older adults have not started planning for end-of-life care. This lack of planning is apparently particularly prevalent in certain racial groups and also in people with less education and income.

The researchers, from the University of California San Francisco, describe advance care planning as discussions about preferences for end-of-life-care, completion of advanced directives and designation of a surrogate decision-maker in a durable power of attorney for health care.

According to the study, there is growing awareness of the benefits of such plans for both elders and their families, who can become caught up in unexpected legal issues if no such plan exists. But until recently, it was unknown if all races/ethnicities, education levels and incomes have benefited, and if these discussions are greater among those in worse health and with poorer prognosis.

“Despite decades of work to improve advance care planning, over a quarter of older adults have still not engaged in any type of discussion or planning for their end-of-life preferences or plans,” said lead author Krista L. Harrison, PhD, geriatrics research fellow at UCSF. “Our findings suggest that there are substantial portions of the population of community-dwelling older adults who need to begin discussions about their plans and preferences before they are unable to share those preferences with their loved ones.”

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