Local News

Survey: N.C. Seniors Reluctant To Plan For, Talk About End-Of-Life Care

Posted July 17, 2003

— No one likes to talk about death. A new AARP survey shows that could be why so many elderly people and their families are unprepared for it.

Nellie Harper, 65, enjoys many programs offered at the Whitaker Senior Center in Raleigh. The programs help her and other seniors live fuller lives, but many are not ready for when life comes to an end.

"Well, I haven't made a living will, but I've talked to my family about some of the things, you know, that I would like to see take place," she said.

An AARP survey of North Carolina members shows 80 percent do not want to be placed on artificial life-support equipment, but only half have a

living will

that details how they wish to die.

"They're not prepared They're not filing an advance directive," said Rachelle Cummins, who explained the survey results to elder care professionals at a forum in Research Triangle Park.

The data show many seniors are unprepared for end-of-life issues because they are reluctant to talk about it with their families, doctors or clergy.

"This is a very difficult subject to talk about," Cummins said. "A lot of people are afraid that if they talk about it, they're going to bring it on."

Harper said, "It's not uncomfortable for me, but it's uncomfortable for my family because they seem to think if you talk about those kind of things, it means that you're going to leave them."

While 75 percent of those surveyed said they would like hospice counseling if they faced a terminal illness, only 25 percent knew it is covered by Medicare.

State AARP leaders hope to turn the survey numbers into action by helping seniors paint a brighter picture of their last years and final hours.

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