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Demystifying Advance Directives

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Lane Powell Shareholder Gail Mautner, with research assistance from former summer associate Hernan Rebagliati, authored a Spring 2012 American Seniors Housing Association Special Issue Brief titled “Demystifying Advance Directives.” The Special Issue Brief discusses advance directives, specifically including living wills, durable powers of attorney and do-not-resuscitate (“DNR”) directives, and focuses on “best practices” for long term care communities.  It begins:

Individual wishes about end-of life treatment may vary based on personal philosophy and attitudes towards life and death; they may also be affected by education, culture and religion. Educational and language barriers may be a significant impediment to expressing one’s wishes verbally at the most critical moments, even for individuals who are still competent to make decisions.

For this reason, many states allow residents to express their wishes in writing, in legally enforceable documents called “advance directives,” some of which are also referred to as “living wills.” A “living will” is a document that an individual signs while he or she is still “competent,” providing future direction to families and health care providers about the types of care the individual would like to receive (or not receive) when the individual no longer has the “capacity” to speak for him or herself. According to data from the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey and the 2007 National Home and Hospice Care Survey, 65 percent of nursing home residents and 88 percent of discharged hospice care patients had at least one advance directive on record.

Read the article (PDF).