Taking a comprehensive look at concerns and attitudes toward the end of life, this survey of AARP members in North Carolina investigates talking and thinking about death, end-of-life concerns and needs, views on pain management, experience with advance care planning, desires for support from family and the community, and awareness of hospice services.
Of all the members surveyed, 86 percent are comfortable talking about death. About as many view dying as an important part of life and see special value in getting older. While the majority may be comfortable, most members have not taken the steps necessary to ensure that their end-of-life concerns and desires are addressed. For example, just a little more than half has a living will or health care power of attorney or both.
Besides formal advance care planning, a little less than half have talked only with their spouse or family about their own end-of-life wishes. While 71 percent do not want to burden their family or friends, similar proportions expect their children or spouse/partner to provide a variety of types of support including "knowing my desires when I die." Dying painfully is a fear of 74 percent; however, at the same time, just as many would take pain medication only when pain is severe or take the least amount possible. Awareness of hospice services is widespread with 93 percent having heard at least a little about them, but only 24 percent are aware that Medicare pays for hospice services. Despite the high importance of spiritual/religious peace and comfort when dealing with dying, very few members, most of whom rate themselves as being very religious/spiritual, have talked about their end-of-life wishes with clergy.
AARP's mail survey of 3,586 of its members in North Carolina is based on the Life's End Institute: Missoula Demonstration Project's Community Survey, and was conducted in partnership with The Carolinas Center for Hospice and End of Life Care between November 5 and December 6, 2002. The "all AARP members" report was prepared by Gretchen Straw and Rachelle Cummins of AARP Knowledge Management, and the African American segment report by Rachelle Cummins who may be contacted at 202/434-6297 for further information about both reports.