Here at Wings of Hope, we guide individuals and their families through the end of life process each day. As we work together with patients and caretakers, we’ve learned that there are some essential conversations that get skipped all too often.
A conversation about end of life decisions can be difficult to start. However, it’s a vital component of effective hospice care. We can’t always control whether or not death will come, but we can control the conditions in which we spend our days and months. Here are four questions that can get the conversation started, and help you and your loved ones make mindful decisions, ensure that wishes are honored, and ease the process together.
1. What defines meaningful time to you?
Some people want to fight for every minute they possibly can. Others have very specific wishes about their quality of life. For example, if their health deteriorates to the point where they can no longer interact with loved ones, they may decide to sign a do-not-resuscitate order. Your definition of “meaningful time” can help your loved ones and healthcare providers make decisions that will sustain your goals.
2. How do you feel about extended hospitalization?
The majority of Americans die in a hospital, often after an extended stay. However, most of us have the option of spending the end of our life at home or in a different setting from a hospital. This may simply be an extension of the definition of “meaningful time,” or it could be a more specific discussion about the possibilities of home hospice care.
3. Do you have and understand the guidelines in your Advance Healthcare Directive?
An Advance Healthcare Directive is an essential tool for defining and sustaining a patient’s wishes in case they’re unable to make decisions or communicate wishes directly. Advance directives will include a living will, as well as designation of a healthcare proxy. These instructions set forth the patient’s wishes about life support, do-not-resuscitate orders, intubation, surgery, and other supportive measures.
4. Who is your healthcare proxy?
This is a harder decision than it may seem at first. A healthcare proxy is an individual with the medical power of attorney to make decisions for you in case you’re not able to communicate or decide yourself. This position can be difficult, but confusion in who holds medical power of attorney can lead to great confusion in your healthcare plan, and conflict among your loved ones.
Although these are difficult conversations to have, it’s always wise to have them sooner, rather than later. Far too often we see that when families finally think to ask these important questions, they’re already beyond the point of being able to do much about the answers. Get your wishes down on paper, and communicate them with both your loved ones and your medical care providers.
Here at Wings of Hope, we help premium care for patients and their families at the end of life, enabling discussions and practical measures that respect your wishes and ease the burden on loved ones. Contact us to learn more.