Most baby boomers are putting off end-of-life decisions, such as drawing up living wills and health care proxy documents, according to an Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll.
The poll of 1,416 older Americans, including more than a thousand born between the Post World War II baby boom years of 1946 and 1964, found that many adults are simply not dwelling on death because they feel healthy or even too young to think about it.
“I don't think of myself in terms of my age group,” Sandy Morgan, a 57-year-old retired teacher, told the AP.
No wonder; the Richmond, Va., woman runs frequently, practices yoga and even takes part in a fitness boot camp. She says her parents are healthy in their early 80s, so she rarely thinks about drawing up a living will or a power of attorney document to guide medical decisions for her if the need ever arises.
“I just feel like it’s something I'll probably think about in my late 60s or 70s,” she said.
The poll revealed similar attitudes among participants across the nation, which may not necessarily be a good thing, according to Kathy Brandt, senior vice president at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Brandt said adults regardless of age and health status should consider drawing up a living will or health care proxy in the event that the unexpected happens. She noted that it could help prevent legal fights and spare families from having to make painful decisions, especially regarding the care of someone who can’t make decisions on their own.
Brandt pointed to some high profile cases, including the family fight in Florida over Terri Schiavo, whose heart suddenly stopped in 1990 when she was only 26. She had no living will or any legal instructions about what was to be done in terms of her care. Doctors said she had suffered irreversible brain damage, was in a vegetative state, and could be kept alive only by a feeding tube. In 2005, Supreme Court ordered the tube removed, after years of legal battles between her husband and her parents.
Brandt noted that while a living will is considered a legal document, it could be drafted by anyone as long as a witness signs it. To avoid any question about a persons wishes or instructions, she advises giving copies to a number of people, including family members and friends.