With any important decision comes a frank and open discussion, especially when it comes to medical care preferences. There is always hope this discussion happens before you are unable to make decisions for yourself. These decision are called advanced directives and include your wish for what you want as your health care changes.
Is there ever a good time to talk about this? The holidays might be the right time – when family is together. If you prefer to skip the conversation, record your preferences in a letter, email, or during a routine doctor’s appointment. As long as you are able to communicate your wishes, you can change your mind about how you want to be cared for as your health changes.
Below is a list of questions you might consider to guide the conversation.
– Thinking about your death, what do you value most about your life?
– If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness, would you want to pursue every possible cure?
– Do you want to die at home?
– If not at home, where do you want to die?
– How much pain is acceptable to you?
– Do you want your family with you when you die?
– What decisions regarding care do you want to entrust with others?
– What do you hope for regarding your death?
I believe the most important question is “What do you want at end of life?” I met with a woman who asked her father this, and he said, “As long as I can have chocolate ice cream and watch football, I will be fine.” His answer surprised her, but it also told her what was important to her father and helped guide her when his health changed.
We all have different values. We know that what is important to one person might not be important to another. Spiritual, cultural, social and economics may influence decision-making. Understanding options and what is available is important as these decisions are considered.
Sometimes people do not want to stop curative measures. At some point, however, the person may not be able to physically withstand additional surgery, chemotherapy or other treatment. Palliative care, which helps relieve pain and provides symptom management, can be a relief and an option. Hospice provides care to the patient and entire family. Curative care is stopped and replaced by comfort care to reduce pain and other symptoms associated with the illness. Hospice also supports quality of life while supporting the family helping to care for the patient. Hospice provides a range of services for a variety of illnesses through a team approach that offers support physically, socially, and spiritually. Hospice also offers bereavement to families after the death of a loved one. Hospice does not take away hope – it offers a different kind of hope.
Discussing a care path or change in the goal for care is difficult for family members. However, having the conversations sooner rather than later can ensure you are providing the care your loved one desires.
Preceptor Hospice Director of Operations