Aging care is in the spotlight, and for good reason. Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 years old, and up to 85 percent of them are living with at least one serious illness. With the over-65 population expected to double by 2050, the healthcare landscape must adapt to this influx of older Americans who demand better care.
Local healthcare leaders are listening. I’m proud to have helped form the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council in 2017 to leverage the collective influence of the area’s top healthcare CEOs to improve the healthcare economy of our region. LHCC’s major initiative is to focus on aging care innovation. Also launched last year, the Thrive Innovation Center is a technology innovation and education center designed to enhance the quality of life for those over age 50. And on May 17, the Health Enterprises Network is hosting Converge Louisville, a full-day conference designed to highlight Louisville as the nation’s epicenter for advances in aging care.
The emerging healthcare needs of the aging population mean that having difficult conversations about advance care planning is more important than ever. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report, 98 percent of Americans surveyed believe it’s important to have their wishes for medical care in writing, but only 34 percent have any such document. Statistics like these demonstrate how it important it is for both individuals and organizations to embrace end-of-life planning.
Talking about death is uncomfortable. We understand that. But accidents and serious illness can happen to anyone at any time, so it’s vital that everyone discuss and document their healthcare wishes in an advance directive (also called a living will) BEFORE they find themselves in a crisis.
We’ve seen firsthand the emotional stress it places on families whose loved ones come to us for hospice care without a plan for end-of-life care. We’ve found that patients and families who have an advance directive in place can make the most of the time they have left together. Advance healthcare planning relieves the burden of decision-making during those precious moments.
You don’t have to take our word for it. It’s not only organizations like ours sounding the bell for advance care planning, it’s become a movement. National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), observed from April 16-22, is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations like Hosparus Health that are committed to inspiring, educating and empowering the public and providers about the importance of healthcare decision-making.
We’ve created several opportunities to get our community involved in starting the conversation. We’re partnering with Jewish Hospital and the Before I Die Festival to hold a series of events between April 16-22 to raise awareness among professionals and our volunteers, who will then be better prepared to help patients and families with end-of-life planning.
It’s important to note that advance care planning is not just about deciding what care a person does or does not want. It’s about outlining one’s values, identifying care preferences and selecting a designated representative to make healthcare decisions if patients are unable to speak for themselves. In fact, starting the conversation about advance care planning is so critical to one’s plan of care that Medicare offers reimbursement to physicians who consult with their patients about this type of planning.
It’s up to all of us to take control of our healthcare, and one way to do that is to make our wishes known. For resources on how to start a conversation, click here or visit our home page and click on the Patients and Families page. or call us at 800-264-0521. And be sure to visit our Facebook page often during National Healthcare Decisions Week to learn how you can help start the conversation.