Educating a Nation

Article excerpt

Recently the Journal of Hospital Medicine published a study on end-of-life discussions and their effects on survival rates. The study, which involved more than 350 patients who had "low or medium risks of dying within one year," found that "discussing and documenting patient's preferences for care at the end of life does not cause them any harm." Those leading the study expressed the hope that the endeavor would help inform national debate about advance directives, and support healthcare providers to initiate such discussions without fear of scaring patients, or causing their premature demise.

It's indicative of most American's cloudy understanding of end-of-life issues that such a study was deemed necessary. But it also clearly reaffirms the importance of ASA's mission to "enhance the knowledge and skills of those who seek to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families." Rarely has education on all aspects of healthcare, from cradle to grave, been more necessary than it is right now, especially given the continually confusing rhetoric coming from the 2012 campaign trail and the lingering misinformation from the last round of healthcare debates.

The Benefits of Planning Ahead

We'd like to thank William Benson and Judith Peres for guest-editing the In Focus section of this issue, which explores the topic broached in that hospital study-how we approach the end of life-from planning for care that matches one's values and the benefits of palliative care, to how to initiate a conversation about death in our death-avoidant culture. The articles explain why we know so little, and they propose concrete solutions on how to alter the way we live out our lives, and how professionals in the field of aging can affect the larger conversation. And there are other insightful stories: a look at end-of-life planning within American Indian communities, and a poignant personal reflection by Bonnie Genevay (see page 20) on choosing quality of life. Bonnie, a longtime ASA friend, passed away in late August. Ever loyal to our community, her contribution to this issue is, in her words, "a love letter to ASA. …