COVID-19 has more Americans thinking about their demise, survey finds

The pandemic has led more Americans to think about their own or their loved ones’ death.

Market research firm Ipsos surveyed 1,000 adults between March 8-9, and about 29% of respondents said that the COVID-19 pandemic increased their likelihood to write down their wishes and values for end-of-life care.

The pandemic has pushed sickness and dying to the forefront of people’s minds, said Dr. Joe Shega,executive vice president and chief medical officer for VITAS Healthcare, which commissioned the study. “Seeing so many people get sick and not knowing what their wishes were, I think that’s a real big motivator to get them more open to thinking and talking about it,” Shega said.

One in 5 respondents said they had a loved one who was seriously ill or died during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they did not know their wishes or values for end-of-life care.

Shega said that clinicians can play an important role in prompting conversations about end-of-life care, like whether they want hospice services or plans like do not resuscitate orders. The conversation, he suggested, could be part of routine questions and concerns that clinicians go over.

“Normalizing it as part of a process, like talking about their cholesterol levels, their blood pressure, and their advanced care planning wishes,” Shega said. “And revisiting it every so often is one of the keys to getting people more comfortable.”


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