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Industry Has Responsibility for Helping with End of Life Planning

Editor’s note: This article was written by guest blogger Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, a healthcare marketing and experience management expert and expert guide in assisted living for about.com. He is also the National Health Care Channel Partner for CEO2. For more information about the author, please see our About page.

If California is reflective of the nation then the results of the 2011 Californians’ Attitudes and Experiences with Death and Dying survey are worth sharing. Compiled by the California Healthcare Foundation, here are some of the highlights (based on level of importance), which relate to people’s experiences concerning the death of a loved one, as well as their own preferences for end-of-life care:

  • Making sure my family is not burdened financially by my care: 67%
  • Being comfortable and without pain: 66%
  • Being at peace spiritually: 61%
  • Making sure my family is not burdened by tough decisions about my care: 60%
  • Have loved ones around me: 60%
  • Being able to pay for the care I need: 58%
  • Making sure my wishes for medical care are followed: 57%
  • Not feeling alone: 55%
  • Having doctors and nurses respect my cultural beliefs and values: 44%
  • Living as long as possible: 36%
  • Being at home: 33%
  • A close relationship with my doctor: 32%

Other key items worth noting include:

  • Twenty-eight percent of Medicare spending occurs in the final year of life; 12% occurs during the final two months
  • Thirty-eight states have obesity rates over 25%; 42 states have diabetes rates over 7%; one-in-five adults smoke cigarettes, which adds $100 billion in healthcare costs

Eighty-two percent of Californians thought it was somewhat or very important to put their wishes in writing but just 23% had done so. And 92% have never spoken to their physician about this issue.

I found it interesting that just 33% preferred dying at home. Probably based on my own personal beliefs, I thought it would be much higher. But what that means is that patients could very well be in your care, and often are, when the final moments of their life are upon them. As an industry that puts patients and residents first, it just makes sense to take responsibility in assuring that your residents die with dignity.

Last month, citing palliative care, I initiated this discussion as a kind of starter conversation into death and dying. While I alluded to available tools (Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project and Five Wishes), I don’t think I was emphatic enough in stating my belief that the industry must take a role. This California study took me to that level.