Although important, patients snub EOL plan

Survey: 76% neglect care planning

California HealthCare Foundation, Oakland, CA, commissioned a survey that would determine what percentage of patients actually has end-of-life (EOL) wishes in place. The survey unveiled that even though there was great interest in documenting their final wishes, patients are delaying these difficult talks.

According to the survey, more than 80% of patients believe it is important to have their EOL wishes in writing, yet less than a quarter of them have accomplished that planning. Furthermore, only about 40% said they had talked with a loved one about what medical treatments they would want at the end of life. The top reason for avoiding the talk, respondents said, was that they had "too many other things to worry about right now." About one-fourth of respondents said they did not want to talk about death or dying. Only 3% said they had not thought about the subject.

These statistics are not at all shocking, considering only 8% of the patients said they had ever been asked about EOL treatment wishes by a physician, the survey said.

Patients who were aged 65 and older were the likeliest to discuss EOL wishes with a loved one, with 71% having done so, the survey of California responders said. Surprisingly, less than 40% of those surveyed had heard of the term "advance directive," yet nearly three-quarters knew of hospice care. This difference comes as no surprise, considering the use of hospice has risen in recent years, according to The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's (NHPCO) annual report, Facts and figures: Hospice care in America.

The data gathered are expected to be reported publicly by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).