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A Glass Half Full or Half Empty: AARP Bulletin Optimism Poll

End of life thoughts, concerns, fears, needs, and plans are the focus of this March/April 2005 survey of AARP members age 50 and older in Massachusetts. Of the 3,000 surveys mailed, a total of 1,448 (48%) were completed and returned. The responses provide a comprehensive view of concerns and attitudes toward end of life issues.

Massachusetts members are comfortable talking about death and dying, but most restrict such conversations to family members or spouses. Only 17% report that they have talked with their physicians about their end of life wishes, and 10 percent say they have not talked about this to anyone. Although 69 percent say they have completed a last will and testament, only six in ten have a health care proxy or durable power of attorney. Asked about support they expect to need near the end of their lives, more than 80% want others to listen to them, help with chores, know about the illness, and know the last wishes. At least eight in ten want honest answers from doctors (89%), want to understand treatment options (87%), and want to have to have good pain management available (83%). Most are concerned that they not become a physical burden to loved ones (84%). More than 90 percent say they have heard of hospice, although fewer than four in ten know that Medicare pays for it. Three quarters of those who know about hospice would want hospice care if they were dying.

This study, managed and authored by Erica Dinger, AARP Knowledge Management, is the result of a partnership between AARP Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Commission on End of Life Care. For more information about this study, contact Erica Dinger, AARP Knowledge Management at (202) 434-6176. (40 pages)

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