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On World Alzheimer’s Day, New Help to Plan Ahead


Monday, September 21, 2020   

NEW YORK -- A national group has created new online tools to help people diagnosed with dementia determine the kinds of care they will want, including end-of-life care.

Today is World Alzheimer's Day, and research indicates a rising wave of dementia in the wake of the COVID pandemic.

Without an advance directive on care, doctors are likely to prolong a patient's life for as long as possible.

Kim Callinan, president and CEO of the group Compassion and Choices, said polling data shows most people would prefer a natural death rather than living for years in a condition they consider worse than dying.

The group has released videos and online tools to help make these care wishes known.

"It allows a person to reclaim their voice and identify the point at which they would want their caregivers and their medical team to support them in allowing a natural death to take place," Callinan said.

Dementia affects one out of three dying seniors in the United States.

Callinan said the tools use a series of questions to give a person the chance to think about and decide for themselves what types of medical care they want when they are no longer able to make their wishes known.

"It will tell their caregiver whether or not they would want to continue with aggressive treatments, whether they would want other diseases to end their suffering, or whether they would want all available treatment."

She noted the tools allow users to create a Dementia Healthcare Directive that empowers health-care proxies to implement informed decisions on the patient's behalf.

Callinan added the tool also is important for the adult children of seniors who may be faced with making those decisions. And they may want to encourage their parents to use the tools, as she did with her own parents.

"I want to be able to honor and respect what you want," Callinan said. "Would you take the time to go through this tool with me? Because it will help me know that I am showing love for you, exactly how you want me to show it."

Research shows New York is one of the ten jurisdictions in the United States with the highest rates of Alzheimer's disease.

Disclosure: Compassion and Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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