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World Right to Die Day: Raising awareness of crucial issues affecting everyone

The upcoming ‘World Right to Die Day’ (2nd November) may not be a ‘feel-good’ day of celebration — but it provides an important opportunity to raise awareness about how societies across the globe can approach end-of-life care and death with more compassion.1

At Aetna International, we’ve been exploring this crucial concern in our quest to build a healthier world. As health care professionals and individuals alike struggle to find a better balance between compassionate end-of-life care and costly medical intervention, we’re looking at effective models that overcome many of the obstacles.

Our recently released report, A dignified death: Realising the promise of living wills and palliative care, takes a deeper dive into this issue — and our proactive approach can help employers, governments, the medical community and our members understand how change could benefit everyone.

The challenges

Record numbers of us are living with chronic conditions and terminal illness into even older age — making it more common for lifespan to exceed ‘healthspan’. And far too many people are experiencing unnecessary suffering and a loss of dignity at the end of life.

The World Health Organization estimates that 20 million people need end-of-life care annually, and another 20 million need palliative care — care that meets medical and non-medical needs by providing support to patients and families while relieving physical, psychological and spiritual pain — more than a year before their deaths.

Early intervention and palliative care can reduce both suffering and costs, but quality of life and right-to-die positions can be complicated by the high cost of health care, cultural and religious beliefs, and conflicts between patients and their families. Other barriers include doctors’ unwillingness to have candid end-of-life conversations, lack of palliative care specialists, lack of recognition of palliative care as a real discipline, cultural and legal restrictions, and pain medication access restrictions.

We need to create a flexible, integrated infrastructure that involves policy makers, health care systems, caregivers, communities, payers and education institutions. In this way, we can focus on quality of life to the very end, to the benefit of individuals and their families.

What we’re doing to combat the problem

The multi-pronged approach being taken by Aetna Inc. and Aetna International features:

  • Getting upstream of health conditions through data-driven risk identification and proactive, holistic health and wellness services to help people live more healthy days and experience a good quality of life
  • Advocating for increased use of living wills, palliative and end-of-life care to help people advocate for the palliative and end-of-life care experiences they choose
  • Expanding the Aetna Compassionate Care programme, which involves specially trained nurse case managers providing education, support and coordination among doctors, caregivers, family members, social workers and hospice agencies as well as a collaboration with Meals on Wheels America to deliver daily meals to older adults with social support and critical safety checks
  • Increasing care access and convenience through ‘vHealth by Aetna’. Our virtual care model that gives members the opportunity to speak with a doctor through their mobile phone or laptop to get quality advice and health outcomes
  • Supporting at-risk members through our connected care philosophy and ‘In Touch Care’ outreach model, which gives them lifestyle-change education and one-on-one access to a clinician
  • Driving down health episodes and costs through better member engagement, including outreach efforts, health fairs, biometric testing, educational webinars and coaching programmes for individuals and employee groups
  • Raising awareness of the end-of-life care topic so that societies and health systems champion the best possible odds of individuals experiencing a dignified death

For more insight on this weighty issue, read our white paper:

A dignified death: Realising the promise of living wills and palliative care

Learn more about how employers can encourage employees to take end-of-life care matters into their own hands.

If you’re looking to find out more about us or for an international health care benefits and wellness partner, find our contact details here and get in touch.

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