As end-of-life planning continues to be overlooked, more and more families are finding themselves unprepared for last minute decisions that pop up unexpectedly when a loved one gets sick. Left to the final moments, these decisions become much harder to make as the impact of emotion inevitably weighs in. How long do you want to stay on life support? Would you be comfortable in hospice? Who do you want in the room with you during your last moments? What will happen to your dog? Who will close out your cable account?
Lack of a plan can lead to dire consequences.
While some of these questions seem almost arbitrary next to the weight of losing a loved one, they can add up and prove to be very costly – emotionally and financially. In 2007 alone, 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies filed in the United States were related to medical expenses. The same Harvard University study found that of the 62 percent of bankruptcy filings, over 70 percent of those people did in fact have health insurance. Still, unanticipated costs arose and caused a major financial toll. The Affordable Care Act should help with this, but will not solve it.Aside from the financial impact, there is much to be said about control over your last months and moments. With over 1.7 million Americans dying from chronic diseases and 25 percent receiving hospice services at the end of their lives, the need for a well thought out plan cannot be denied. Unfortunately, an aversion to the topic as well as a lack of awareness makes it so that most people do not have any advance care directives in place. For example, most people know they would prefer to die at home but only a third of adults actually have an advance care plan that will facilitate that.
What exactly does advance care planning look like?
This idea of planning out your final days is by no means a new one. In fact, it first gained popularity in 2007, with the introduction of the Affordable Health Care Act. Today, many private insurance companies have begun paying doctors to guide their patients through these difficult conversations. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has started paying doctors, nurses and social works an average of $35 dollars per conversation. States like Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington also have similar programs under different private insurance companies. Talks of making it an industry standard is steadily gaining traction, especially for public insurance companies like Medicaid.
Thirty-year healthcare veteran and CEO of Final Roadmap Kerry Shannon notes that with a growing, aging population afflicted with chronic illnesses, the cost of healthcare resources will continue to rise. Commensurately, advances in medical care will force more decisions on individuals and their loved ones. Shannon suggests solidifying your plan after reflecting and discussing preferences in a timely fashion — long before crisis occurs. She believes baby boomer women will do for end of life what they did for childbirth – take control and make it better.
Your plan should be dynamic and change with your life and health. Thanks to the ease with which information can be shared today, the entire process is much less intimidating than it seems. There are many different ways to make sure you have a solid plan in place. This could mean consulting your doctor during a check up or looking online for some guides.
Products like Final Roadmap finalroadmap.com ask detailed questions that cover all of the bases. Once you have it figured out, this information can be updated at any time and stored in one place so that if you can’t speak for yourself, your loved ones know exactly what to do. A 2009 study revealed that costs were 35.7 percent lower for patients who had advance care directives in place compared to those who did not. A solid plan gives friends, family members and caretakers less to worry about during what will surely be an emotionally taxing time.
by: Kerry Shannon
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