Critter Corner: Why Take Advantage of End-of-life Care Talks?

Dear Baxter, 

I just read that Medicare will fund end-of-life planning discussions with doctors, as of Jan. 1, 2016. Why is this important? My doctor already does this for free. And why should seniors take advantage of these talks? I personally don’t want to talk about death and dying. 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts! 

Dawn Wannatock-Aboutit 
Dear Dawn,

Some doctors, like yours, already provide end-of-life conversations without getting paid for the counseling time, and some private insurers already reimburse for it. However, because Medicare covers 55 million people, making it the largest insurer at the end of life in the U.S., its decision to cover end-of-life conversations is significant. Why?
  • Patients aren’t getting the care they want, according to a landmark 2014 Institute of Medicine report, “Dying in America”. The findings show that Americans are receiving unwanted interventions and not enough comfort care.
  • The move recognizes that people need to be involved in treatment decisions before they become seriously ill or unable to make their wishes known.
  • Encouraging end-of-life discussions is also critical to getting Americans to put their end-of-life treatment preferences in written form. Only about 30 % of us have legal documents, such as Advance Medical Directives – leaving relatives in the position of deciding what to do next after a parent has had a stroke or is on life-supporting machines in the hospital.
It’s up to each person to decide whether or not to have end-of-life discussions with his or her physician. However, everyone should have incapacity documents in place. To begin the Incapacity Planning process, seniors should sit down with their family members to openly discuss their needs and the roles of loved ones in assuring those needs are met. Once this important conversation occurs, and important decisions are discussed, it is important to work with a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as Mr. Farr, to make sure that you have proper incapacity planning documents in place.  These include not only the Advance Medical Directive, but also a properly-drafted General Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Plan, also called a Lifestyle Care Plan.

Hope this helps!

Arfs and hugs,


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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