Living wills may lead to better end-of-life care, study suggests

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Families said they felt better about the care their loved ones received if their loved ones had completed an advance directive before dying, according to a new study.

Researchers asked bereaved family members about the treatment and care given to those who died. They found that families believed they had good communication with their loved one's doctor when there was an advance directive. Of 1,500 people who died, 715 had an advance directive. Families also said they felt they were more informed about what to expect during the dying process when an advance directive existed.

Patients with advance directives, also known as "living wills," were more likely to die in a hospice facility - where the focus is on making dying patients comfortable - than those without an advance directive. Study author Dr. Joan M. Teno of Brown Medical School in Providence, RI, noted that advance directives are a good start to improving end-of-life care, but still more could be done. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
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