Poll: Most New Jerseyans think deeply about end-of-life care

What will your last days look like?

Ahead of National Health Care Decisions Day on April 16, a new poll shows six in 10 New Jerseyans — about 61% — have given some or a great deal of thought to their medical care toward the end of their life.

About 47% have talked to someone about said care, 42% have designated someone to make decisions about their care if they are unable and 30% have a written document detailing their care.

The numbers come from a recent poll in the New Jersey Health matters series by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute in partnership with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University – New Brunswick.

About 24% of poll takers have talked to a doctor or other health care providers about end-of-life care even though providers are reimbursed for those consultations through Medicare and Medicaid.

Almost all (97%) of New Jerseyans have discussed their end of life care with a loved one — spouse, parent, child, etc. About 39% have talked to a lawyer or financial planner and 7% have talked with a spiritual leader.

About 84% of those who have prepared a written document have shared a copy with a family member or loved one while 86% have shared it with their designated health care proxy. More than half (51%) have shared said document with a lawyer or financial planner and 24% have done so with a doctor or health care provider.

“There’s a real gap when it comes to discussing (end-of-life care wishes) and writing them down,” Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, said. “The gap is wider for some groups more than others, influenced by key factors like age, gender and race.”

“The best way to make sure your end-of-life wishes are respected and honored is to discuss and document them. And that’s why we created Conversation of Your Life (COYL),” Linda Schwimmer, CEO and president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, said. “We therefore need physicians, nurses and other health care providers to encourage patients to talk about — and then document — their wishes. And if health care providers don’t bring the topic up, then patients should.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,203 adults contacted between March 7 and 22. The sample has a margin of error of +/-5.0 percentage points.

To see the full poll, click here.