Palliative Care and Other End of Life Plans

By: Ben Anton

The older one gets, the more important it is to start an open, honest discussion on end-of-life preparations with your family and doctors. Most people put off discussing the tougher questions related to passing on:

--- How would I like to spend my remaining days?
--- Who will take care of me as I approach the end?
--- What sort of legal matters should I get taken care of before it is too late?
--- How do I help friends and family cope with my impending death?

These questions, if avoided, force family members to make difficult decisions under duress. By discussing these things openly, families and their loved ones can have peace of mind. It is very difficult for others to try to make important decisions for you without any inclination as to what you would have wanted. It also can put family members at odds with each other if they have different ideas about how best to handle your end-of-life care. Taking the time to communicate those wishes to the ones who will be handling your death will help remove these obstacles.

There are a number of end-of-life preparations you will need to consider when deciding how you want to spend your remaining days. Most of these decisions revolve around how you wish to be treated if you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

Considering Palliative Care
One decision that should be made as you make preparations is whether you wish to pursue aggressive medical treatments or palliative care. Aggressive treatments are typically aimed at prolonging one’s life by attempting to cure one’s ailment. Palliative care is the decision to make one’s final days as comfortable as possible rather than seeking to cure the illness. Both options carry their pros and cons depending on your current state of health and should be discussed thoroughly with your doctor and loved ones.

Treatment Refusal
The right to refuse treatment is another end-of-life decision you will need to make. While many terminally ill patients can extend their lives through treatment, it is the individual patient’s right to refuse that treatment if they don’t feel the quality of life that would follow would be worth it. It is a difficult decision that shouldn’t be made lightly and should be shared with family members.

End-of-Life Care
Where one spends their remaining days is another end-of-life factor to consider. While a hospital would obviously give you better access to doctors, nurses, medicines and treatments, many people choose to live out their final days in the comfort of their own homes. Talk to doctors, grief counselors, family members and other loved ones before deciding which option would be best for you. Also, discuss your finances with your family so that you can make the best decision based on your finances or get help if additional money may be needed in order to carry out your wishes.

Advanced Directives & Living Wills
Advanced directives are legal documents that outline your end-of-life decisions should you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself. A living will is one type of advanced directive. This document outlines what types of treatments you wish to have if you become incapacitated in some way. Consult a lawyer when drawing up a living will. After your living will is finished, give it to a family member or loved one for safe keeping and keep a copy with your lawyer. Both will be able to present it to medical personnel at the appropriate time. Change can be made to your living will so long as you are in a healthy state of mind to make them. Don’t be afraid of deciding on something in your living will because you think you might change your mind.

Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney, or DPOA, is in charge of making decisions about your health care that you did not specify in your living will, such as questions of resuscitation and organ donation. Choose the person you believe would make the best decision for you and your family.

Research is showing that families that discuss end-of-life preparations have much lower stress levels and have a healthier grieving period then those that do not discuss these things openly. Take the time for sake of your loved one’s health and your own and open up a discussion about end-of-life preparations.

~Ben Anton, 2009

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