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Living will remains a popular directive for the elderly

According to recent research, a majority of elderly people have executed an advance health care directive. The one most popular with the elderly is the living will. This is an estate planning document signed by the individual while alive, in which he or she directs health care providers what to do in case of terminal illness, brain death and similar end-of-life circumstances. There is legislation authorizing the use of a living will in all states, including Texas.

Support for the living will and advance health care directives came in 1991 when the federal Patient Self-Determination Act was made effective. This law requires health care providers to give patients information about their rights to make advance directives under state law. The living will remains immensely popular and, according to major university research, about 72 percent of the elderly had living wills in 2010.

Healthcare specialists say that the popularity of the living will has not resulted in fewer terminally ill patients being hospitalized. Medical groups tend to favor the increased use of hospice care and the reduction of hospital admissions for the terminally ill. A living will does not mainly deal with whether someone wants to be hospitalized. It primarily deals with decisions to be made in the last weeks and hours of a person's life, pertaining to the use of artificial means of life-extension.

More specifically, the living will is most often used to advise healthcare personnel that the individual does not want to be placed on life-extension machines if brain death has occurred. There are other kinds of healthcare directives as well. The main one in wide circulation is the "medical power of attorney," which appoints a trusted person to make healthcare decisions if the maker is totally incapacitated.

The availability of advance care directives and standards for compliance are found in each state's statutory codes and state regulations, including in Texas. It's sometimes difficult, however, for individuals to follow the wording and instructions written by legalese-prone legislators. In such event, retaining a legal professional to prepare and finalize the process is a probably a wise idea.

Source: redorbit.com, "Record Number Of Older Adults Completing Living Wills", , April 2, 2014

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