What Are the Best Tips for End of Life Communication?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 February 2020
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End of life communication is a mufti-faceted topic, and there are many players who will need to interact effectively to ensure that a dying person is comfortable in his or her last days. This includes doctors, nurses, hospice care workers, family members, friends, and the patient himself or herself. Directing end of life communication involves more than just planning the funeral and financial aspects; it also involves ensuring that the patient fully understands what is happening, and that family members are well informed about any medical interventions, as well as about the patient's desires. Both the patient and his or her physician should also have a talk about medical care and resuscitation efforts.

The first point of end of life communication is usually between the doctor, patient, and the patient's loved ones. Doctors must learn how to break the news of a terminal illness or injury in a sensitive and understanding way. At the same time, it is important that no misinformation is given in regards to the patient's condition. If there is no chance for a recovery, it is not fair for a doctor to lead a person and his or her loved ones to believe otherwise. While there is always a slight chance, it is usually better for everyone involved to understand the situation so that they can come to terms with it.


It is also important that end of life communication take place between the patient and his or her loved ones. There are a wide range of issues which need to be discussed. These include funeral plans and similar topics, as well as what will happen in regards to medical care under certain circumstances. For instance, if a patient wants a certain person to be in charge of making health care decisions in the even that he can't do so himself, this should be determined and legalized. Patients who wish not to be resuscitated should also let their family members know ahead of time.

Patients who are informed that they have a terminal illness should take steps early on to make the situation easier on loved ones. This includes finalizing a will and other legal documents, choosing someone to handle financial aspects like insurance and estates. It should also be discussed where the patient will spend his or her last days, whether medical treatment will continue during that time, and who will be around during his or her final moments.

Having open and honest end of life communication is never an easy task, but it is necessary. All parties involved will feel more at peace knowing that situations were handled in the way the patient wanted. Patients should communicate their needs and desires to those they feel will fully understand and accept their wishes.


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