The vast majority of Americans are not prepared for death, dying and the choices that must be made, which translates to a significant health care crisis. Only an estimated 25-30% of Americans have a living will, meaning that end-of-life issues are often neglected.
HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski discussed the topic Wednesday with Good Medicine founder Dr. Jennifer Brokaw, psychologist and author Dr. Joseph Nowinski, After50Living.com founder Joanne Lema and Dr. Lael Conway Duncan.
Dr. Nowinski shared the story of his father, whose health was failing for the last five years of his life and who initiated an end-of-life discussion by inviting his son over to his condominium.
"I, frankly, was pretty uncomfortable about it initially even though I had worked with people who were terminally ill," Dr. Nowinski said. "He was the one who actually initiated it...[and] that sort of launched me on some interest in researching this more."
Dr. Nowinski said he found that while the person who has the diagnosis is sometimes uncomfortable having the conversation, more often it's the family members and even the physicians who are resistant to the discussion.
"Ironically, it's by having this conversation that the patient and the family can take control," he said.
Dr. Brokaw urged people to think about "how you want to live your life and how you want your life to end." Dr. Duncan echoed the sentiment, suggesting that American adults "should address [their] own mortality" as soon as they are mature enough to think about it.
"We're dealing with a live strong culture that really looks at new medical science and biomedical innovation and genetic innovation as a means of living longer and better, and yet we remain very, very human and there's a very, very strong cultural dynamic at play here," she said.
"The way people die in america now is much more a slow death, a dwindle, where they become more and more incapacitated and lose a lot of their ability to care for themselves," Dr. Brokaw added. "So we have a caretaker issue in America right now and it's only gonna get worse."