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New Jersey joining push for greater use of living wills

According to some estimates the number of people in America without the benefit of a living will is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million. That's about a third of the entire population. If the same percentage applies to New Jersey, the number of folks who lack a living will would come in at around three million.

Whether that's the actual number to apply to our state is less important than reinforcing just how important it for everyone to know how to create a living will. These documents, also called advanced directives, are the tools by which individuals make clear how they want their care to be handled in end-of-life situations.

As it happens, Monday, April 16, has been set aside nationally, in the state and in within local communities, as National Healthcare Decisions Day. In the Newark area, Saint Michael's Medical Center is taking part in the effort. Further south, South Jersey Healthcare is participating. The intent of the day and its related activities is to encourage families to have the essential conversations about what might have been deemed too delicate a subject.

To help in the process, South Jersey Healthcare is inviting the public to come in to the SJH Regional Medical Center and SJH Elmer Hospital. Brochures and staff will be available to offer information and answers. Admitted patients will have access to information through videos on the hospital TV systems.

At Saint Michael's, representatives will be on hand near the main lobby from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to answer questions.

Through these efforts NHDD organizers hope to not only raise awareness about living wills, advanced directives and assigning a healthcare power of attorney, but also to encourage individuals to take the step of actually putting their end-of-life care wishes into legally binding form.

Perhaps the best way to think of living wills is this. By creating one, you ensure that the people you love the most will not be left in the predicament of having to make the most difficult decisions of your life.

Source: NJ.com, "South Jersey Healthcare readies for National Heathcare Decisions Day," Matt Gray, The News of Cumberland County, March 20, 2012; Saint Michael's Medical Center, "Saint Michale's Medical Center to Observe National Healthcare Decisions Day."

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