If you own anything, you should have a living will (also known as directive to physicians or medical power of attorney). An Associated Press LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that 64 percent of baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – say they don’t have a health care proxy or living will. A living will or medical directive is not a will that distributes your property when you die. Instead, it is a document that explains what medical care you wish to receive if you are incapacitated. The number of American adults with living wills increased between 2004 and 2007, rising from 31 percent in 2004 to 41 percent in 2007, according to LexisNexis. Meanwhile, 38 percent of adults (undoubtedly most of the same people in the previous 41%) have a healthcare power of attorney, which gives a designated friend or family member the power to make your healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated, according to your specific instructions.
We believe that people in virtually every age group should have a living will. Clearly, the elderly are at greater risk than the young, but are the young OK to wait? There are a number of disturbing trends which suggest the answer is a resounding NO.
Many Texans think unless they are seniors, they do not need a living will. The data suggests otherwise. Within a period of 13 years, from 1995 to 2008, the number of people within the age group of 15 to 44 who were hospitalized for strokes rose by 37 percent, said researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a related study, scientists have identified a significantly increasing trend in ischemic stroke hospitalizations among adolescents and young adults: one in three ischemic stroke patients was between 15 to 34 years old.
According to the findings of the study, published in the Annals of Neurology, the increased risk of strokes was greater in men than in women in all age groups. Over the time period studied, it rose 50 percent for men aged 35 to 44, 29% for women. For those 15 to 34, it was a 23 percent increase. The most likely culprits: rising rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes — the major risk factors for stroke — among younger people.
So why would strokes be increasing in younger people, while decreasing in older people? Kissela says it’s probably because stroke prevention efforts aimed at controlling high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity have largely been aimed at older people. And they’ve been successful, he says. Because stroke is thought of as an older person’s disease, younger people fell through the cracks, Kissela says. “If we don’t reverse this trend, there will be many years of productive life lost. Not just years of work lost; it can be as simple as a young mother no longer being able to hold her baby.”
A small investment in time and money up front on a living will and powers of attorney can provide you and your loved ones with the peace of mind you deserve. At any age.