Thirty percent of Americans have signed a healthcare power of attorney (agent) or advance directive. The vast majority were signed as part of hospital admission paperwork or completed in an attorney’s office as part of the will and estate planning process—and almost none had a substantive discussion with their actual agent about their wishes.
These discussions matter in how we die and the associated costs. LaCrosse Wisconsin has had a 30-year effort to talk about and promote advance directives. Over 95% of residents of LaCrosse County have an advance directive and they have discussed their wants publically. As the article says, LaCrosse made end-of-life discussions part of the community’s DNA.
The results are impressive. LaCrosse has some of the lowest end-of-life costs anywhere in the nation: $$18,000 versus $26,000 to $65,000 elsewhere (2014 dollars). “More importantly, because the directives are part of every patient’s medical records and have been widely discussed ahead of time ensured the best care consistent with the wishes and relieved the emotional and financial stress for families. Family members don’t have to debate about what their loved one would want for treatment and avoiding decisions made in the spur of the moment.”
I take great comfort in the LaCrosse results. It shows that we can have control over the end of our lives.