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Study Shows Racial Gap in use of Living Wills, Advance Directives

A recent study seems to indicate that a growing number of people are utilizing documents such as living wills and advance directives. However, in an interesting twist, there also seems to be a gap between black individuals and white individuals when it comes to using these planning documents.

Living wills and advance directives, sometimes also called medical proxies, are used by individuals to communicate to their end-of-life plans to loved ones, but they are also used to empower another individual to make health care decision in the event the subject of the living will is incapacitated.

The recent study found that a high percentage of individuals in hospice care have taken the opportunity to use these documents, but a smaller number of people in nursing homes and those receiving home health care have utilized them. According to the study, those that have created a living will numbered as high as 88% of hospice residents, 65% of nursing home residents, and 28% of those getting home health care.

The study found that blacks were only half as likely to have livings wills in nursing home or home health care settings. However, in the hospice setting, blacks and whites both appear to have living wills about 80% of the time. According to some experts, the reasons for this racial gap might have to do with past discrimination in the health care system that makes blacks less confident that their wishes will be followed.

If you do not have a living will or advance directive, it is never too early to consider drafting one. While there are forms available for these documents, you should really speak with a legal professional who can help you draft a document that fits your particular needs.

Source: USA Today, Study: Blacks less likely to have living wills, medical directives, Janice Lloyd 1/7/11

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