June 2, 2020:

The vast majority of Irish adults (95%) have not taken steps to record their future care wishes, however almost a quarter (23%) have been prompted to think about doing so because of COVID-19.

The findings are contained in new research launched today by Safeguarding Ireland which encouraged more people, particularly those who are older or vulnerable, to record their wishes and preferences for future healthcare.

Read the RED C research here.

Safeguarding Ireland highlighted that planning ahead now ­– for if we became unable to make decisions or live independently due to age related frailty, serious illness, or an underlying condition – safeguards against risks of abuse and is also better for our loved ones and healthcare professionals.

Responding to the findings, Safeguarding Ireland called for a major change in attitudes and behaviour on sensitive care issues with much greater consideration, conversation and recording of people’s wishes.

The research, carried out on a nationally representative sample of 1,001 adults using RED C’s omnibus survey, found that just 4% of adults had completed an Advance Healthcare Directive and 4% the Think Ahead form, which are the two recommended ways to record future healthcare wishes. Just 5% of adults had completed either document.

During the COVID-19 period the number who had completed the Think Ahead form increased from 2% to 4% and an additional 1% completed an Advance Healthcare Directive.

However, 23% of people reported that they were prompted to consider completing a Think Ahead form during COVID-19 and 14% to consider completing an Advance Healthcare Directive.

Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke urged people to act on this consideration and put their plans into a document which can be referred to if necessary.

“During COVID-19 it’s more important to think about our future care and plan ahead. Talking about and recording our choices on health treatments, place of care and our trusted person to act on our behalf – safeguards us. It also greatly helps loved ones and healthcare professionals to provide that our wishes are respected.

“It may not always be possible to deliver on all of our wishes, and this may be more difficult during the pandemic. However, by being discussed and recorded your preferences can always be at the centre of important conversations or decisions.”

Older people were just slightly more likely to have planned ahead their future care, as were women and those living in urban areas. However, forward planning was low amongst all groups.

Some reported that they were not clear on how to plan ahead and what steps to take.

However, Patricia Rickard-Clarke clarified that the Think Ahead form facilitates the recording of important wishes in the event of serious illness or end of life.

“The Think Ahead from is available to everybody at www.thinkahead.ie. It is a planning document in which people can record personal information, emergency contacts, health insurance, culture preferences, religious beliefs, place of care wishes, organ donation wishes and financial information.

“It can also include an Advance Healthcare Directive which records future healthcare preferences including treatment approaches, surgery, medicines and resuscitation.

“Preferences in a Think Ahead form can be updated at any stage. Once completed it is important that trusted family, friends or professionals know where the form is stored.” Think Ahead is an initiative of the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Ms Rickard-Clarke added that planning ahead is better for our loved ones and families as they can support us, guided by clarity on our preferences. This reduces family tensions and stresses and also the risk of a person taking advantage of and abusing vulnerability. “It is also better for healthcare professionals to have clarity on who our healthcare information can and cannot be shared with. This avoids healthcare workers getting drawn into family stresses.”

The research also found that just 6% of people had in place an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), which is very low by European standards, although 13% had considered it during COVID-19. 30% of all adults surveyed had made a Will and this was higher among older people (71% among over 65s).

Research commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland last February found that just 5% of adults had documented what their place of care preferences (such as at home with supports, nursing home, hospice, or family members house).

Safeguarding means living safely, free from abuse of neglect. It means our choices, particularly if we are vulnerable, are clearly heard and respected. More information, including the RED C research, can be viewed at www.safeguardingireland.org.

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Safeguarding Ireland / Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731. 

Safeguarding Ireland 

Safeguarding Ireland promotes safeguarding of vulnerable adults to protect them from was all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and develop a national plan for promoting their welfare. The organisation’s main funder is the HSE.