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New Yorkers can benefit from early health care decision planning

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  • Staff Report 

Today is National Healthcare Decisions Day, and New Yorkers have reason to start early planning.

A new report cites rates of Alzheimer’s disease growing among the state’s 65+ population, with a projected 460,000 older New Yorkers being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by 2025.

Corinne Carey, senior New York campaign director for Compassion & Choices, feels the best first step for health care planning is exploring a person’s values. She said many questions should be considered during the planning process.

“Is it important for you to be free from pain at all costs?” Carey outlined. “Is it important for you to be treated the way you want? Is it important to you to know how your body will change? Is it important that you not be connected to machines?”

One way to help people get started is Compassion & Choices’ Dementia Values and Priorities tool. It is designed to help people document their health care wishes before developing dementia or an illness affecting their decision-making abilities.

Experts advise people to revisit and update their plans every five to 10 years, rather than chuck them aside in the filing cabinet.

Some people delay health care planning because they feel it is hard to have such conversations.

Jessica Empeno, national director of clinical engagement and education for Compassion & Choices, said not having a person’s wishes creates numerous challenges.

“There is a much higher risk for receiving treatments that may not be beneficial, that could be burdensome, and could be really expensive,” Empeno pointed out. “Copays and things like that are not inexpensive for people.”

She added if a person moves or travels a lot, they should have more than one advanced directive.

One challenge in planning can be the options a person has, such as considering certain surgeries and understanding the side effects of different treatments. Empeno noted having a professional sit down and review the options can help people feel less overwhelmed in health care planning.