What Is End-Of-Life Planning?

Dan Cavallari

End-of-life planning is an important decision-making process conducted by an individual and his or her family members to prepare for the issues that arise when a person dies. For some people, this conversation happens when they are diagnosed with a terminal illness. For others, the discussion is held when they are still healthy and expect to have years left to enjoy. No matter when end-of-life planning occurs, it will help family members, close friends, and health care providers know what to do for a number of different scenarios the individual might face.

End of life decisions may include the wish to speak with a religious adviser.
End of life decisions may include the wish to speak with a religious adviser.

Although it can be a difficult discussion to initiate, one way to begin an end-of-life planning conversation is to talk about what would be considered a good death is for that individual. A person needs to consider his end-of-life wishes such as where he would like to be when he dies, how much medical intervention he expects, what he would like his funeral or memorial service to include and where he would like to be buried. The outcomes of this conversation can help the individual to create advance directives, legal documents that express what he would like to have done to achieve a good death.

A patient may enter into end of life counseling when terminally ill.
A patient may enter into end of life counseling when terminally ill.

One critical document for end-of-life planning is a living will which covers the person’s medical wishes. If the individual does not want life-extending interventions or only certain interventions, those limits would be stated in the living will. In case the individual is unable to enforce those wishes at the end of his life, A health care power of attorney grants the authority for another person to make health care decisions on behalf of that individual. This person should be very familiar with the patient’s wishes.

End-of-life planning may include discussions with a counselor.
End-of-life planning may include discussions with a counselor.

Should a terminally ill individual at the end of his life decide to limit the amount of medical intervention he has, he might opt for hospice care. End-of-life treatment provided in a hospice setting focuses on making the patient comfortable. Patients will receive medication to manage pain and symptoms associated with their diseases. Hospices also offer psychological and spiritual counseling to help the transition with emotional difficulties associated with dying.

Making a living will is an important part of end-of-life planning.
Making a living will is an important part of end-of-life planning.

Many governments offer end-of-life planning support services that help caregivers assist their elderly or dying loved ones. Programs might include hospice locators, information on home health agencies, and consumer advocacy programs for assisted living and nursing homes. Caregivers can also find information on disability benefits, elder benefits, or other programs that help cover medical costs.

End-of-life treatment provided in a hospice setting focuses on making the patient comfortable.
End-of-life treatment provided in a hospice setting focuses on making the patient comfortable.

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