A new report called Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life was issued in September by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.
Among the major determinations in the report are these two important points:
“Most people near the end of life are not physically, mentally of cognitively able to make their own decisions about care. The majority of these patients will receive acute hospital care from physicians who do not know them. Therefore, advance planning is essential to ensure that patients receive care reflecting their values, goals and preferences.”
“Not only do most Americans lack knowledge about end-of-life care choices, but the health community and other leaders have not fully utilized strategies to make that knowledge available, meaningful and relevant across diverse population groups.”
The report suggests that all Americans begin talking about death and end-of-life choices early and often. When? At major life milestones, even if they occur well before old age or life-threatening conditions are factors.
As a Newsweek article about the report states: “The ultimate goal is to ‘normalize conversations about death and dying,’ so that people are more comfortable discussing and preparing for the eventual situation.”
If hospice care is a “somewhere down the road” possibility for you, your spouse, your parent or other loved one, it is vital to have conversations now. Conversations with family members. Conversations with your doctors.
Make you wishes known and take note of those expressed by other family members. These wishes should be revisited from time to time to make sure that desires are clearly stated and understood. Also, an individual’s thoughts may change over time.
Death is inevitable. Even though you may plan to be around a few more decades, things can change in a heartbeat, literally. Talking about death now (and again later) allows you and your loved ones to approach the ends of your respective lives with confidence that your wishes will be honored.
For information about hospice care, call us at Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800. We serve patients and families in St. Louis city and county and Jefferson, St. Charles and Franklin counties.