One in five Americans who are 75 years and older have neither written down nor talked with their loved ones about their wishes for medical care at the end of their lives. Additionally, more than 25% of adults in the United States have given little or no thought at all about how they would like their medical treatment to be handled at the end of their lives.
End-of-life care is a term that is used to describe the care of both patients who are in the final days of their lives, as well as patients who have a terminal illness that is advanced, progressive, and incurable. If a person’s end-of-life wishes are not made known while they are able to do so, the question of their care will rest on their family’s shoulders. Not only can this be difficult for the family, but it can also end up resulting in end-of-life-care going against the individual’s wishes.
On the other hand, if you give some thought and discussion to your expressing your desires about your end-of-life care, it can give your loved ones peace by knowing they have carried out your wishes.
What Should Be Discussed
When planning what you wish for your end-of-life care, certain decisions should be made, including:
- Where you would like to spend your final days: According to the CDC, most people say they would prefer to die at home. However, only about one-third of adults have completed an advanced directive that explicitly expresses this wish.
- Which treatments you wish to receive: If you do not want extreme measures to be taken to preserve your life, you should sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order to make sure your wishes are carried out.
- What type of palliative or hospice care you wish to receive: There are many different types of care for people who have reached the end of their lives. Do you want heavy pain killers? Would you like to be aware during your final hours? Do you wish to be kept alive artificially without brain function? These are all important questions to answer before you are unable to speak for yourself.
How to Make Your Wishes Known
These sorts of decisions can be difficult to approach sometimes. At the end of your life, do you want to simply be made comfortable? Or would you rather every single option be explored before giving up? Once you have taken the time to decide the answers to these questions, find a loved one or friend who you feel very at ease with and explain yourself in a calm and confident way.
Though having the conversation with your family and friends is a good step, this does not always ensure that your wishes will be carried out. They may forget certain details, or feel pressured into other options once the time comes. For this reason, advanced directives exist as a way to help make your wishes as clear as possible not only to your family, but also to your health care providers to make sure there are no discrepancies.