End of life care planning is the process by which patients, family members, and other stakeholders identify patient preferences for their end-of-life care in the event that the patient is no longer able to communicate their wishes. This includes discussing what types of treatment the patient would like to receive in the event that they are nearing the end of life, including life-sustaining measures and other advanced directives. This may also include other decisions such as legal or financial matters that need to be settled, the option of organ donation, and funeral arrangements. In this guide to end of life planning we will review all of these decisions so that you and your loved one can plan for their end of life in the best way possible.
End of Life Care Planning Decisions
Determining how the patient most wants to die, including their choice over what treatment options they would or would not like to receive is a critical first step in the end of life care planning process. Not only does this give the patient a sense of dignity and satisfaction, but provides their loved one’s with peace of mind knowing that the methods of treatment provided are aligned with the patient’s best wishes.
One of the most important questions a patient can consider during this process is “how much treatment do you want at the end of your life?” This helps determine if the patient is open to life support measures such as CPR, feeding tubes, breathing machines and other treatment options, if and when their body loses its ability to do their corresponding tasks (breathing, sleeping, etc) on their own. While these facilities can often “save” a patients life in the short-term, in many cases these interventions only slow down an inevitable death. As a result, many patients opt to not have some or any life support in the event that they lose the ability to function normally.
”Do Not Resuscitate” Orders
During these conversations, it’s also important for the patient to make it known whether they would or would not wish to be resuscitated if doing so would only cause them physical suffering. Patients can opt for a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order which allows for a natural death when and if their condition worsens to the point where helping them via treatment is no longer an option. For example, if the patient were to flatline as a result of a heart attack, and chose to refrain from resuscitation, doctors will withdraw treatment instead of attempting to revive them using CPR.
Planning Ahead: Other Topics to Consider
In addition to discussing end-of-life treatment options, there are many other concerns that may need to be addressed in light of a patient’s prognosis, including the following:
Financial & Legal Matters:
Financial & Legal end-of-life planning can help ensure that the patient’s loved ones are aware of the appropriate distribution of the patients property (including personal possessions, money, real estate, children and business ownership) after their death. While end-of-life financial and legal planning is a highly complex topic (far beyond the scope of this post), preparations generally cover the following contingencies:
Provide detailed instructions for guardianship of minor children in the event of death
Distribute property to specified beneficiaries and determine who gets what in advance
Choose trustees or executors for the patients estate
Provide for elderly parents, disabled adult children and other relatives
Do everything possible to reduce charges for transferring your property
Avoid taxes through revocable trusts and donate to charities
Have a clear and orderly plan on the transition of your business ownership, when applicable
Organ and tissue donation refers to the right of a physically healthy person to donate parts of their body to people who need them after the patient’s death. These may include the heart, lungs, pancreas, kidneys, corneas, liver and skin. Making this decision known in advance (before death) can ensure that family members and doctors are aware of and adhere to the patient’s wishes, if they are eligible.
Articulating a patient’s wishes for their respected funeral is another important component of end-of-life planning. Knowing whether the patient would prefer to be buried or cremated, have a traditional or unconventional funeral, as well as how they want the funeral to go about can help their families know and prepare for the occasion when the time comes. This can oftentimes lead to a healthy and open discussion regarding how the patient most wants to be remembered, and how they would like their loved ones and friends to celebrate his or her life together.
How a Hospice Care Services Can Assist You
Despite the importance of end of life care planning discussions in ensuring patient satisfaction and identifying patient preferences for their end of life, many families unfortunately don’t have these vital conversions because they don’t know how to approach these topics or find it too uncomfortable. Professional hospice services can help expedite this process by acting as liaisons between caregivers and the patient. This can allow for a broad array of concerns to be addressed and shared by both parties, in a context that makes it easier to approach emotional and difficult topics.
Moreover, but taking proactive steps to facilitate a strong patient-caregiver relationship, hospice services can ensure that both parties ‘voices’ are shared, heard and respected. This can increase the likelihood that both the patient and their caregiver(s) walk away from the experience with a greater sense of empathy, appreciation and understanding. Hospice providers will also encourage clear communication throughout end-of-life care planning conversations and ensure that all topics that need to be discussed are explored.
Contact Harbor Light Hospice today to learn more about how we may assist you in your end of life care planning.