End of life care is the term that no one wants to know about and no one wants to hear. However, we will all reach the end of our life and the more care we plan for the better it will be. End of life care planning allows us to express our wishes for our care and can make things much easier for family members. Thinking about end of life care before it is needed can answer many questions for your loved ones and provide direction for healthcare professionals. When it comes to end of life care for the dying these are invaluable services who help the dying person and the family to find their way through dark, uncertain days with dignity and a quality of life. Here are four things you need to know about end of life care.
1. End of life care is provided to those who are in the last years or months of their life. It is designed to help the person die with dignity and live as well as they possibly can in their last days. The care may be “curative”, in other words, designed to cure or remedy some health conditions. The care may be palliative and designed to comfort the side effects of a health condition and its treatment. The patient and his or her family decide which type of care they want. The care can move from one to another along the course of end of life care.
2. End of life care can be received wherever the person is at the time. It can be delivered in a hospital, long-term skilled nursing facilities, hospice centers or the patient’s home. End of life care will follow the patient as they move between these environments. The end of life care team will include a variety of healthcare professionals including:
- Primary care physician
- Hospital doctors called “Hospitalists”
- Nurses including those in the hospital, working for hospice, and home care nurses.
- Counselors, social workers and chaplains.
- Occupational therapists, physiotherapists.
- Therapists who specialize in complementary therapies such as massage and Reiki.
3. Planning for the end of life improves the quality of life
End of life care is delivered when a patient suffers from a serious illness that has probably existed for many months or years. A prognosis from a doctor often makes it clear that death will occur in the foreseeable future. These things make it possible to plan for end of life care that will give the patient the best quality of life possible as they prepare to die. As we mentioned earlier, the more that end of life care is planned the easier it can be for the patient and the family. End of life care can do many things for the patient and family:
- End of life care planning increases the patient’s sense of dignity.
- It improves access to home care services and eases the handling of details for the family.
- End of life care can provide emotional and spiritual support.
- It reduces depression and improves quality of life.
- End of life care can prevent traumatic emergencies and painful transportation to emergency rooms.
- End of life care can prevent deaths from occurring away from home.
None of us want to anticipate the end of life. However, when chronic disease makes it clear that the end of life will occur in the foreseeable future it makes sense to deliver dignity and the highest quality of life possible to the patient.