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New Jersey Residents Aren’t Writing Down End Of Life Wishes

Limited awareness of advance care planning documents, palliative care; more widespread knowledge of hospice, study finds


Although New Jersey residents say they are comfortable with growing older and talking about their mortality, most have not put their end of life care wishes in writing.

More than 60 percent of New Jersey adults have no advance health care directive, and only about half are familiar with New Jersey’s state advance directive, according to a new Rutgers University/New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute poll. The purpose of such forms is to help ensure one’s end of life wishes are carried through in case of illness or incapacity.

In addition, far fewer of those polled recognize other crucial end of life care options such as palliative medicine (45 percent), the advance directive known as “Five Wishes” (24 percent) or the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form (27 percent).

Results are from a statewide poll of 886 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cellphones from April 1 to 8.

Ashley Koning
Ashley Koning

“New Jerseyans are not very familiar at all when it comes to the state advance directives,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

“The biggest factor here is age. Our most senior residents, those who are over 65, they’re not only comfortable with getting older, they’re also the ones who are very much more likely to be making a plan.”

So-called millennials, adults aged 20 to 34, often fail to comprehend the importance of end of life planning.

“Awareness and preparation slips away” with youth, Koning said. “End of life care is very far from the minds of millennials. Under half have given it much thought at all or have actually talked about it, and only 17 percent have actually written something down.”

Still, there were some encouraging results. A majority of adults have thought about their end of life care wishes (33 percent have given some thought, 33 percent have thought a great deal), and 60 percent have had a conversation with someone about their wishes in the event that they become terminally ill or incapacitated. Nearly 80 percent are familiar with hospice.

Koning said she believes talk about death and dying is becoming less taboo in the Garden State because of the graying population.

“People in New Jersey are talking about it, thinking about their end of life care plans,” she told Life Matters Media. “They’re not afraid of getting older, they’re comfortable with thinking about getting older, they’re just not writing anything down.”

Advance Directives Still Matter

Research shows the best way to ensure one’s care wishes – in or out of hospitals and nursing homes – are followed is with a clear, easily accessible advance directive. Ideally, these documents should be completed after careful conversation with family, trusted friends and medical providers.

Compared to other states, New Jersey has among the highest use of medical interventions in the last six months of life.

“People care and think about end of life plans, but they are not taking action and are mostly unaware of what opportunities are available,” said Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of Health Care Quality Institute, in a statement.

“This issue is critical to New Jersey, a state where people are more likely to die in a health care facility and less likely to use hospice services than residents of almost any other state.”

– Image via Pixabay