As the average age of U.S. residents increases with each year, the formerly unmentionable topic of dying is being discussed more frequently and openly, in large measure due to the work of organizations like Compassion & Choices. The United States has the largest number of centenarians of any country, currently around 72,000, and that figure is projected to double by the year 2020.
Concomitant with the increase in age is the increase in the incidence of afflictions of the dementia spectrum, which brings up the second greatest fear: of losing our mental faculties. Medical interventions have made it possible for us to live in an unconscious state for extremely extended periods of time. That is why Compassion & Choices has developed a Dementia Provision which can be added to an advance directive. The Dementia Provision advises physicians and family members of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia about her wishes to be fed or refuse feeding if she is unable to feed herself and becomes unconscious. If you add the Dementia Provision to your advance directive, talk with your loved ones and your physician so they are aware of your wishes. Please consult with our End-of-Life Consultation counselors if you have questions about completing the Dementia Provision, how to best ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of dementia, or have other questions about end-of-life planning. The End-of-Life Consultation counselors can be reached at 800.247.7421.