It has been estimated that by 2050, there will be more than 19 million U.S. citizens at or over the age of 80. Because the population is quickly aging, Medicare announced that it plans to reimburse doctors who spend time discussing their patients’ end of life wishes.
In order for the doctor to be reimbursed for the end of life consultation, the patient must request the consultation. During the discussion, the patient would be told about all of the options that are available. Based on the doctor’s advice, the patient and his or her family members can make better decisions that will make the person’s remaining time more comfortable. This step is being backed by many advocates, including the American Medical Association and AARP in addition to more than 60 other organizations.
There are a few roadblocks that must be taken into consideration. Many doctors are not comfortable talking to patients about end-of-life options that are available. Doctors will need training in order to have comfortable discussions. Additionally, there are some right to life organizations that believe that doctors may lean their patients against treatment that may lengthen the person’s life. However, this can be mitigated with proper training.
In addition to discussing end-of-life options with their doctors, elderly individuals should also discuss their wishes with their family members. This step may be increasingly important as the number of elderly individuals rise. A corollary of people living longer is that nursing homes may become understaffed, making abuse much more likely to happen. If a person who ends up in a nursing home suffers from financial, physical or emotional abuse, an attorney can assist in determining how to obtain proper recourse for the damages that have been sustained.
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