End-of-Life Care Options: Difficult but Necessary ConversationsAuthor: Steven Schwartz, Ph.D. Date: October 29, 2019
No one wants to talk about end-of-life care. But an open and honest discussion with family and your healthcare team can help you avoid complex problems later. Evidence shows that effectively communicating your end-of-life care needs can enhance your quality and length of life and your emotional health.
When it’s time to discuss end-of-life care with your family and healthcare team, here are a few tips to help make these conversations easier.
- Take charge: Many patients and families wait for the physician or other healthcare team member to initiate advanced-care planning. Providers can vary in their comfort and degree of proactive discussion on these topics, so it’s important that you express concerns to your doctor and trusted family. This can help provide realistic feedback and ensure your wishes are known.
- Know your options and evaluate their benefits and risks: Understand all available care options when making end-of-life care decisions. This includes any financial and emotional costs. Remember to consider such topics as hospice care, advanced directives, living wills, and powers of attorney.
- Communicate your values: Managing a life-limiting, chronic illness is a balancing act. Perhaps it’s pain control vs. sedation, clinical benefits vs. side-effect management, or quality of life vs. longevity. Regardless of the specific trade-off, it’s best to clearly and assertively express what’s important to you.
- Designate a patient advocate: The healthcare system can be hard to navigate. If possible, try to identify an assertive patient advocate to help you communicate your wishes and cope with the challenges of the healthcare system.
- Determine who handles what: Palliative care typically encompasses a multi-disciplinary team that includes the patient and their family. Be sure that the roles and responsibilities of each team member are clearly defined and understood by all relevant parties. Try using an online or physical calendar to help keep track of responsibilities. This can help ensure your wishes are carried out effectively. You can download a calendar as part of our Diplomat Health Binder.
- Understand your emotional state: Fighting a disease and managing the care process can be emotionally exhausting. Remember to be mindful of your emotional state, as this can help determine timing and tone for conversations around palliative or end-of-life care.
- Caregivers should be mindful of the emotional toll they face: Diplomat offers tips on reducing caregiver strain.
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