What’s More Difficult Than Talking About the End of Life? Not Talking About It.
By Kathleen Kashow, VITAS Healthcare // January 3, 2021
VITAS Healthcare has specialized in end-of-life care for more than 40 years
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – According to a 2017 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, nine in 10 Americans say they are comfortable talking about end-of-life decisions with a physician. Are you? Is your physician? Have you had the discussion with a family member?
■ Has your spouse told you his or her feelings about being on a ventilator?
■ Have you discussed your feelings about a do-not-resuscitate order?
■ Does your doctor have permission to insert a feeding tube?
■ What readings and music do you want at your funeral?
VITAS Healthcare has specialized in end-of-life care for more than 40 years, so we know the importance and necessity of having heartfelt conversations with your medical team, your spouse/partner, family members and caregiver(s) about end-of-life wishes.
VITAS suggests a simple three-stage approach to having the conversation:
■ Talk About It: Make a conscious effort to have the difficult-but-necessary conversation. Schedule a time and invite people who need to participate. Discuss issues openly and honestly. Make sure others understand your end-of-life preferences—and why.
■ Write It Down: Fill out an advance directive, which is a living will or Five Wishes document that spells out the types of care you want—and do not want—near the end of life. Designate someone as your durable power of attorney (POA) for healthcare decisions. This person might not be your closest relative, but rather someone who will remain clear-headed and calm in a crisis and decide for you if you’re unable to communicate or speak for yourself.
■ Share It: Distribute copies of your advance directive, living will and POA to anyone who might be involved in decisions about your care, including your doctor(s). Provide an extra copy to be included in your patient chart.
About 90% of Americans say end-of-life wishes are important, but only 33% talk about them. Having the conversation now spares your medical team, family members and healthcare proxies the anguish and possible disagreements that can arise if they have no clue about your preferences, concerns and opinions.
The most difficult conversation, in fact, might be the most important one you’ll ever have.
Learn more about advance directives for patients with specific advanced diseases, tips for improving your advanced directive, and more at VITAS.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen Kashow is general manager for VITAS in Brevard County, Florida. For more information about end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at 321.339.2893 or visit VITAS.com
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