Experts call for “national effort” supporting older adults who are already or might soon be “unbefriended”—a term for those who lack designated decision-makers and are no longer able to make medical decisions on their own.
New York (Nov. 22, 2016)—Experts at the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) today unveiled new guidance on care and decision-making for a unique and growing group of older adults: the “unbefriended.” Proposed clinical practice and public policy changes would support some of society’s most vulnerable individuals while also helping protect more of us from becoming unbefriended as we age.
The “unbefriended” lack the capacity to provide informed consent to medical treatment, often due to declines in physical and/or mental well-being. But these individuals face added challenges because they have no written outline of their care preferences and also have no identified “surrogate,” such as a family member or friend, to assist in medical decision-making when needed. Baby boomers are at particular risk for becoming unbefriended, since more than 10 million boomers live alone and as many as 20 percent have no children.