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Discussing End of Life Care Options with a Terminally Ill Relative

discussing end of life care options with terminally ill loved one

According to a report issued by the Institute of Medicine, less than 30 percent of adults surveyed had spoken to loved ones regarding end of life care. As uncomfortable and frightening as it can be, you should speak to your terminally ill relative or loved one about his or her preferences.

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The American Psychological Association reports that older individuals who have chronic illnesses give significant thought to how they want their life to end and would prefer that is without symptoms and pain. Not addressing the issue early may only deprive you and your relative of the chance to fully share this part of his or her life and can prevent your loved one from fully benefiting from the palliative or hospice care that can make the end of his or her life easier.

Starting the Conversation about Death

It is best for family members to speak with terminally ill relatives regarding death while they have the capacity to make decisions on their own, preferable in the months, weeks or days before a death may occur. The conversation may be started in an appropriate quiet setting with simple questions.

  • What type of treatment would you prefer?
  • Have you designated someone to make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated?
  • How can I support you and your choices?
  • What type of end of life care options do you prefer?

Related: Does Hospice Mean “The End”?


Finding Comfort for the Terminally Ill During Their Last Days

There are a variety of services available that can help you and your terminally ill loved one find some measure of comfort in an extremely difficult situation:

  • Bereavement counseling. Bereavement counseling is intended to aid individuals with coping with the death or potential death of a loved one. One of its goals is help you get to point where you are able to function normally.
  • Hospice advice. Hospice service providers provide a variety of spiritual and psychological services that are aimed at helping patients and their families address and cope with an impending death.
  • Assistance from a doctor. A doctor can give a clear idea of what to expect during certain stages of an illness. This can help the patient handle difficult medical issues that may arise.

Related: How to Say Goodbye When Your Loved One’s Time Is Near


End of Life Planning

With an end of life plan, a dying patient and his or her family should ensure that the appropriate measures are in place so that patient’s wishes will be adhered to. Advance directive can be used so that the patient is able to make his or her preferences known and can receive the care he or she wants. Typical forms may include:

  • Living will
  • Health care proxy
  • Organ donor designation
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate order

Making the Transition with Hospice and End of Life Care

Hospice care is a kind a palliative care that is used for patients who have reached a certain stage in their illness and have decided to forgo curative treatment. It focuses on ensuring that a patient’s final months are as comfortable as they can be while the patient is able to maintain his or her dignity and control and maximize his or her quality of life. Hospice care is typically referred by a patient’s primary physician.

Download Omni Home Hospice Care Guide