Advice for elderly people: Organ donation

February, 2013

More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant. Of these, 1000 each year – that’s three a day – will die waiting as there are not enough organs available… a harrowing yet true statistic. As advice for elderly carers, if you are looking after a relative who’s health is deteriorating and you find yourself looking to the future and considering funeral arrangements then now might be the time to talk to your relative about the benefits to others of organ donation.

To decide whether or not you wish to become a donor after you have died is something very personal and it is important that everyone makes their own decision. If your relative is thinking about organ donation here is some frequently asked questions and advice for the elderly on donating:

How do you become a donor? In order to be a donor they must join the organ donation register. It is also important to inform friends and family of this decision.

Are donors screened to identify if they have a transmissible disease? Yes. Blood is taken from all potential donors and tested to rule out transmissible diseases and viruses such as HIV and hepatitis. The family of the potential donor is made aware that this procedure is required.

Can older people be donors? Yes, in the case of eyes and some other tissue, age does not matter. For other organs it is the person’s physical condition, not age, which is the deciding factor. Specialist healthcare professionals decide in each case which organs and tissue are suitable. Organs and tissue from people in their 70s and 80s are transplanted successfully.

Why do they need to make a decision about whether to become a donor? In the UK organs and tissue from a potential donor will only be used if that is their wish. You can indicate your wishes in a number of ways such as telling a relative or close friend, by carrying an organ donor card or recording your wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Putting your name on the NHS Organ Donor Register makes it easier for the NHS to establish your wishes and for those closest to you in life to follow them.

If your wishes are not clear, the person closest to you in life will be asked what they think you would have wanted, so it is important that you make sure they are aware of your views on organ donation.

For more advice for the elderly on organ donation please visit the NHS organ donation website here.

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