Why Planning for End of Life Care is so Critical
Watching a loved one face end of life care can be sad, overwhelming and confusing. Having a plan will help ease this burden. Also known as advance care planning, this plan will detail how your loved one wants to die and can include more than just their thoughts on feeding tubes, resuscitation, and ventilators. It goes beyond that to involve goal setting, having conversations about what measures your loved one is comfortable taking to extend their life before those decisions become necessary. This will ensure a better quality of life for the patient and less anxiety for the family in Santa Clara and elsewhere.
Sadly, more than half of end of life discussions occur in the hospital when emotions are running high, patients aren’t readily able to fully communicate their wishes and family members are likely stressed, upset, or even unavailable. When advanced planning discussions are held in calm, comfortable, familiar environments, outside of the hospital setting, the patient is more likely to think more clearly about their situation and offer better insight. Plus, family members can join the discussion and take part in the conversation without the pressure of an emergency situation breathing down their necks.
Most people prefer to die at home, surrounded by their family and friends. This is an option that is growing in popularity, especially with the growing availability of hospice care. However, most still pass away in the nursing home or hospital, as scared family members who are afraid of losing their loved ones push for more drastic measures to be taken in a clinical setting. This may not be what the individual wants or needs.
Smart Life Planning
Advance care planning allows individuals to make their wishes and care preferences known prior to being faced with a medical crisis. In short, says CNN, it’s simply smart life-planning. Let’s think of it this way: advance care planning is sort of like planning a trip to a destination that you’ve never been to before. Most people, once they have their destination set, will map out the route that will best get them there. Some pull up Google Maps to chart their course, while others chat with friends and family members who have planned a similar trip to get advice. Some do all of this and more.
While few people would dare to travel somewhere unknown without a plan, only 30 percent of Americans have a living will, which is essentially a map that details how they want their health care to play out should they be unable to speak their wishes.
Your loved one’s personal wishes, beliefs, and values are the most critical factors to consider when making care decisions. But they can only be known if they are discussed openly and early.
Perhaps the best way to explain what advance care planning is is to explain what it is not. It is not a conversation about limiting care. It is not a discussion meant to hasten death. And it’s not about the family making all the choices for the patient.
Advance care planning is about looking at all options, making a solid plan and communicating those choices. It involves creating a living will and appointing a health care proxy. It outlines to health care providers what procedures and treatments the patient would want and under what conditions. Advance directives can be changed as the person’s situation or wishes change. Perhaps most important of all is the need for patients to talk with their doctors and family about their end-of-life wishes and then get it all down on paper. This could address anything from the decision to be placed in a nursing home, if needed, or to be transported across state lines, for example.
All too often, death is discussed in general terms rather than specific, personal ones. Coming up with an end of life care plan can cut through the uncertainties and emotionally-charged family discussions in an emergency situation, and instead provide a clear roadmap of the patient’s own wishes. Nothing speaks louder than that!
End of Life Choices: Not Easy But Necessary
All end-of-life choices and medical decisions come with complex psycho-social components, ramifications, and consequences that can have a big impact on the quality of living and dying points out the American Psychological Association. However, the medical end-of-life decisions are often the most challenging for patients and the people who care for them. Each of these decisions should be approached with time, sensitivity and compassion in regards to the relief of suffering and the values and beliefs of the dying individual.