End of life discussions are important to ensure that one’s personal wishes and preferences are known, making sure that their loves ones know what they want in their final days as well as after their death. These discussions are difficult but crucial, while some come to terms quickly with death others have a harder time dealing with it and during times of emotional crisis making critical decisions in the moment can add more stress and emotional turmoil for everyone.
Initiating end of life planning can be upsetting for some to the point where they end up completely avoiding it but there are a few ways to help ease into the beginning arrangements. The first way is gathering the important documents needed, figuring out where money or assets will go, and who is involved. This step includes preparation such as gathering end of life planning documents, making a list of all important assets (including what will happen to these assets), deciding on end of life housing plans, and settling on final wishes for funeral and burial arrangements.
One of the most natural catalysts for this discussion is admission to hospitals or hospice care which lead to open discussions between patients, family members and healthcare professionals about what the next steps are. While this might not be how everyone begins their end of life discussions, it is one of the most common. Doctors also can offer thorough insight to a patient’s condition, short or long term treatment, and end of life options per patient request. When a doctor (or patient) opens discussion for end of life options there are some key questions a patient should discuss with their doctor including:
- How much do you personally want to know about your condition? Would you rather know the basics, or would you like to know in more in depth detail? If you have a terminal illness, would you like to know how quickly it is progressing?
- How much information about your condition can the doctor share with their family?
- Which family members can know more important information? Who is the primary decision maker?
- Do you want to spend your last days in the hospital, nursing facility or at home? Do you have a preference or are you okay with any option?
- Is quality or quantity of life more important to you? Would you like to receive treatment indifferently?
- What is palliative care and is it right for me?
- Would you like a DNR (do not resuscitate) order?