We know that dying isn’t easy to think about, but planning for end-of-life care is something every adult should make time for. Unfortunately, our hospice company sees it time and time again. When an aging patient has provided no directives, decision-making around critical care in the final days or weeks of life becomes more stressful for all those involved.
Learning about what choices you may have — and feeling confident in your decisions — can help you feel more at peace with the future, knowing your desires will be known and followed. But end-of-life decision-making isn’t just for your benefit; it makes things easier for your loved ones during an especially difficult moment. It prevents potential arguments so your spouse, children, or caregivers won’t have to come to a decision on their own. By taking time for advanced planning around your end-of-life care, you’ll give yourself and your family greater peace in your final moments.
Below is a quick guide to help you start planning your end-of-life preferences while in hospice care. Keep reading to learn more about key issues such as CPR, feeding tubes, organ donation, and more.
End-of-Life Decision-Making: What should I plan for?
End-of-life decision-making is the process of deciding what you desire when it comes to your medical treatment and care in the final stage of life — often when you may be receiving hospice or palliative care. This most often includes decisions about:
- Mechanical ventilation (or “ventilator”)— In what instances would you want breathing support to be used (or not to be used)?
- Artificial nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube or IV — In what instances would you wish for these treatments to be carried out? When would you like them to stop?
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) — If your heart or breathing stops, do you want a healthcare professional to perform CPR to resuscitate you? Or do you prefer they “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR)?
- Pain management — Which methods of pain management do you prefer?
- Organ donation — Do you wish to donate organs? If so, which organs and for what purpose?
Factors That Influence End-of-Life Decision-Making
There are no right or wrong decisions when it comes to your end-of-life care plan; here are important factors to consider as you make your plans:
Your beliefs and values: Your personal beliefs, values, and goals for care are important factors that influence how you will want to experience your final moments of life. Only you can know what feels right to you, based on your specific values. For example, do you want to include family in your decision-making, or would you rather come to a decision independently? What religious beliefs do you hold that may affect how you wish to prepare for death?
Your quality of life: Think about how the quality of your life may change based on some end-of-life treatments. Weigh the pros and cons of how extending life could impact how you experience it.
Your prognosis: Your prognosis and medical conditions will influence your decision-making, as certain conditions create unique health challenges. Some patients who are facing a terminal illness may choose to reduce curative treatments sooner in favor of extended comfort care.
Your own family dynamics: Your closest personal relationships play a significant role in your decision-making. Navigating disagreements between your loved ones can make this process more difficult; it can be helpful to seek out the trusted advice of a spiritual leader, counselor, or similar mediator, if you feel like those closest to you, do not support your wishes.
How to Ensure Your Wishes are Respected
Once you’ve come to a decision about what types of care you would like to receive during end-of-life, it’s important to officially record them so they are available when needed. You have two options (both known as “advance directives”). Each state has slightly different legal requirements for advance directives, so make sure you are meeting the conditions necessary for yours. Here is a link to a free Utah advance directive form that you can fill out online.
A living will is a legal document that outlines your wishes for end-of-life care and can be changed or amended at any time.
Durable Powers of Attorney for Healthcare
In place of, or in addition to, a living will, you can choose a trusted person (such as a family member, friend, or professional) to make care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. This person is called a medical power of attorney or a health care agent. You can give that person permission on your advance directive form.
To guarantee your wishes are upheld, be sure to complete these legal documents, have them notarized, store them in a safe place, and let family members know where they can find them. Or, work with your personal attorney so they can help you complete these documents. An attorney can also guarantee their validity with healthcare professionals or family members when needed.
You Control Your Care With Hospice and Palliative Care
No matter what you decide when it comes to end-of-life care, know that hospice and palliative care through a hospice provider like Active Home Health, Hospice, and Personal Care is driven by you.
(Wondering what the difference is between palliative care vs. hospice care? Find out in our recent post explaining all about palliative care.)
Our medical team works to respect your wishes as we provide comfort care, and makes sure that you and your family are the primary drivers of when, where, and how treatments are provided. This includes:
When certain conditions are met — and when requested by yourself, outlined in your living will, or dictated by your health care agent — we will withhold treatment such as a ventilator or feeding tube to make sure your wishes are respected.
Our team has experience working alongside families as they make difficult decisions in the final days of life together. We can help mediate open communication between family members, provide a trusted medical perspective for greater clarity, and make sure our patients’ voices are being heard.
Learn More About Hospice Care in Utah
To better plan for your end-of-life care, we encourage you to learn more about hospice care, including our most frequently asked questions. Understanding what hospice is (and isn’t) can make it easier to decide how you want your hospice team to support you.
At Active, we are happy to be a resource for you and your family as you discuss your options and plan for hospice care; contact us using our online form or by giving us a call.