Understanding Senior Organ Donation

4 Myths About Senior Organ Donation

What Seniors Need to Know About Organ Donation

Organ donation can sometimes seem like an intimidating topic for families to discuss. It may seem unloving to talk about what will happen to a loved one’s body after death, but seniors who choose to donate their organs for medical purposes can make an extremely valuable contribution that may save lives. Unfortunately, the topic of organ donation often gives rise to myths about the process or benefits associated with the procedure. As you consider whether donation is the right choice for you, be sure to understand the truth about these four commonly-encountered myths.

Four Myths About Organ Donation

Of more than 120,000 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant, more than 60% are at least 50 years old. When seniors wonder whether their donation can make a difference, these numbers communicate the vast need. Unfortunately, organ donation often becomes associated with myths that discourage people from taking that next step. Let’s take a look at four of the most common:

  • Myth: “I’m too old to donate.”
    Truth: Organs have been successfully transplanted from people in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s. When a patient needs a new liver in order to live through the night, any healthy liver can make the difference between life and death. There are no cutoff dates for donation. The only conditions that will exclude a person from organ donation are HIV, systemic infection, and cancer.
  • Myth: “I won’t receive the best medical care if my life is at risk.”
    Truth: Healthcare providers do not know your organ donation status when they treat you. Organ donation in no way affects whether you receive the best quality care for your health condition.
  • Myth: “I have a chronic health condition. No one would want my organs.”
    Truth: Chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and kidney problems may seem like reasons not to donate. However, many organs can be successfully transplanted, including corneas, heart valves, skin, bone marrow, and intestinal tissue. Doctors choose organs for transplant based on strict medical criteria, not on your overall health condition. While some organs may not meet the criteria, others may be perfectly healthy.
  • Myth: My family will have to pay extra costs for organ donation.
    Truth: All costs for the transplant will be covered by the recipient. The donor’s family does not pay any additional charges.

Organ Donation Can Save Lives

A new name is added to the organ transplant waiting list every ten minutes. One donor can save up to eight lives. While organ donation may be a squeamish topic for some, the reality is that people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant. For many elderly people, the biggest hesitation about donating is whether their organs would be useful based on health conditions or age. It’s important for both family members and potential donors to understand that age is not a factor in determining eligibility for donation. Doctors can use any healthy organ to save a life, especially considering that many of the people waiting for an organ are over the age of 50.

What Other Factors Should You Consider?

A successful transplant requires that the donor have the same blood type as the recipient. Seniors who have rare blood types can make an important difference in the lives of people who may otherwise have few options for a donation. While loss of a loved one is never an easy prospect to consider, many families report a sense of closure in knowing that their loved one’s decision to donate helped save the lives of others. As people grow older and begin to rely on in-home care or family members to assist with needs, the question of organ donation may become more prominent. If you are considering organ donations, talk with family and loved ones about your reasons and wishes. Your decision could save lives.

Photo by tippi t

Tim Colling
Tim Colling

Tim Colling is the founder and President of A Servant's Heart In-Home Care, which provided in-home caregiving services in San Diego County, and also of A Servant's Heart Geriatric Care Management, which provided
professional geriatric care management services and long term care placement services in San Diego County. Tim has more than 30 years of experience in management in a variety of industries. He held a Certified Care Manager credential from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. Tim is also a Certified Public Accountant (retired), and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from California State University at San Diego. In addition to writing blog posts here for the Servant’s Heart blog, Tim also is a regular contributor to HealthLine.com and to FamilyAffaires.com as well as blogs of other eldercare services provider companies. Finally, Tim is also the president of A Servant's Heart Web Design and Marketing, which provides home care marketing as well as website design and online marketing for those who serve the elderly and their families.

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