A new poll by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University finds 61% of New Jerseyans have given a great deal or at least some thought to their wishes for medical care towards the end of their life.

But only 47% have actually talked to someone about their wishes; 42% have designated someone to make decisions about their care if they are unable; and just 30% have a written document detailing their wishes.

When it comes to things like talking about it, designating someone as a healthcare proxy and writing down actual wishes in an actual document, less than half of New Jerseyans do any one of this.

Age plays a big role.

Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, said senior citizens are much more likely to have thought about end-of-life planning. Two-thirds of seniors have had a conversation about it. About two thirds have designated a healthcare proxy among senior residents and about 6 in 10 have a written document.

Koning added that 97% of New Jerseyans have had a conversation about end-of-life planning with a loved one, whether it be a spouse, parent, child or someone else. But then this drops off from there. Only 24% of New Jerseyans have said they've had this conversation with a doctor, 7% have talked to a spiritual leader and 39% said they have talked to a lawyer or financial planner.

When it comes to dedicating a healthcare proxy, Koning said 42% of New Jerseyans have done so and another 30% have a written document addressing all of their wishes.

Women are more likely than men to have had a conversation about their wishes with someone. There is some larger racial and ethnic disparities when it comes to wishes in terms of the thoughts that's been given and having a conversation, designating a healthcare proxy and having a written document, with white residents doing these things more than people of color.

Married couples tend to take a more active role in end of life care plans than those who are not married, said Koning.

She said there's some disconnect between doctors and healthcare providers not making this well known and patients not knowing themselves that this is a topic they can bring up and have a consultation. It's imperative for doctors to encourage patients to talk about their wishes and then document those wishes.

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