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Pennsylvania's aging population urged to plan for care

As the baby boomers enter their 60s, groups that provide end-of-life care call the coming generation of elders a "silver tsunami." The most quickly expanding age group in Pennsylvania is seniors over 85. And, more than 15 percent of the state's population is now older than 65. 

Those who specialize in end-of-life care planning are urging seniors in the state to plan ahead for the possibility of serious illnesses. One of the best ways to do this is to set health care wishes in writing with durable powers of attorney and a health care proxy, in addition to a will.

Executing a health care proxy allows Pennsylvania residents to help ensure that their loved ones and health care providers are aware of their decisions regarding the very personal choices that can be involved in the final months of life.

Another possibility to plan for in advance is the possibility of hospice care, which if planned for carefully and done at home instead of at a hospital can not only prolong life but also be less expensive. For example, patients who take advantage of palliative care sooner after a terminal diagnosis have been shown to live an average of one month longer than those who wait until the last weeks of life to reach out for hospice services.

The discussion end-of-life medical choices is a delicate one. The best gift that aging Pennsylvania residents can give to their loved ones is to put their wishes in writing well in advance of a health care crisis, with a durable power of attorney and health care proxy.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The silver tsunami: As state's population ages, groups raise awareness for end-of-life care,” by Nikki Pena, May 25, 2014

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