End-of-life issues are part of the human experience. It’s a morbid subject and very difficult to even fathom for some- but at some point, all of us will experience the end of life in our loved ones or within ourselves down the road. Because the end of life can be so taxing emotionally, spiritually, and physically, the subject often brings forth some of the most difficult challenges families can face. According to recent statistics, over 2.8 million people die annually in the United States, and many will require end-of-life care.
At Nurse Next Door, we understand how emotionally taxing this time can be for everyone involved. That’s why we’ve written this article to help guide you through the most common end-of-life issues families and loved ones can face while offering our compassionate support and practical advice.
What Is End of Life Care?
End-of-life care is a general umbrella term that focuses on providing comfort and support to individuals nearing the end of their lives. It is a comprehensive approach that considers the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of a dying person and their families. The goal of end-of-life care is to ensure that individuals receive compassionate and dignified care in their final days, whether in a hospital, hospice, or home.
Typically, there are two types of end-of-life care: palliative care and hospice care. Both have similar end goals of treating patients with life-threatening illnesses while providing ultimate comfort, quality of life, and pain management.
Palliative care: palliative care is provided at any stage of an illness.
Hospice care: hospice care is usually reserved for individuals nearing the end of their lives, especially during the final six months of their life. Individuals can continue to receive this type of care for as long as needed.
For more information on hospice vs. palliative care, visit a recent article here.
3 Crucial End of Life Issues Family Members and Loved One’s Face
1) End of Life Planning
At Nurse Next Door, we understand that thinking about end-of-life planning can be daunting and emotionally taxing. Many families struggle with this crucial issue as they navigate the complex and often overwhelming end-of-life care process. It’s not uncommon for families to scramble to get their affairs in order when they reach this stage.
Understandably, the end of life is a subject and conversation most humans rarely want to touch upon- but at some point, very necessary to do. Especially if your loved one has a chronic illness or is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it is essential to put the pieces in place to receive the care they want in their final years.
It is never too early to plan for the end of life. Advanced care planning is essential to ensuring you and your family have peace of mind and comfort, knowing that all your ducts are in a row in case of the worst. The quote “plan for the worst, hope for the best”- rings true in these scenarios. It never hurts to plan in case your loved one falls terminally ill or in case of an unforeseeable health turn.
Plans can look different to everyone, but you want to put together an advance care plan that summarizes the health wishes, patient preferences, medical interventions, and instructions to guide a substitute decision-maker in case you fall seriously ill or are incapable of making your own decisions.
Some factors to consider when planning for the end of life are:
- Approach the process with compassion and positivity.
- Think about values, spiritual beliefs, and future care wishes.
- Remember your rights as a patient. Understanding the patient self-determination act is essential when planning your end-of-life care.
- Determine who will speak for you. Choose someone you can trust. Decide who will be your health proxy, health care power of attorney, or in some cases, substitute decision maker. If you become incapacitated, this individual of your choosing may need to make healthcare decisions for you.
- Think about your assets and finances. Make a list and plan how your assets will be distributed in case of death. Financially prepare for your end-of-life care and health care in the final years.
- Estate planning. This whole other plan must be addressed when considering the end of life. Don’t push it aside. Consult a lawyer if you need support.
- Health care providers. List who you want on your healthcare team. These people will help and be by your side in your final years. Determine your ideal healthcare team, including professional caregivers like Nurse Next Door, physical therapy, nutritionists, doctors, health specialists, and family members (family caregivers).
In summary, creating an end-of-life care plan involves a multitude of factors. While we’ve mentioned a few of these considerations, many others should be included in advance care planning. At Nurse Next Door, we are committed to helping individuals and families navigate this complex process and assist with planning for the future to ensure the quality of life and dignity.
For an in-depth look at how to plan for the end of life, visit our latest article here (COMING SOON).
2) Preparing Ahead of Time
Like advanced care planning, not preparing ahead of time is an issue many families face with the end of life.
Things can change and shift so suddenly that many families are inadequately prepared for the end of life. Taking proactive steps to prepare can help alleviate some of the stress of the dying process.
One way to prepare is by prepping for end-of-life care at home. Prep the house for safety and comfort by installing any necessary medical equipment and ensuring the home is free of obstacles and safety hazards. With your care team, you can also establish proper safety protocols at home, such as emergency response plans and medication management systems.
Family members can also prepare essential documents such as a living will, advance directives, power of attorney, etc., and ensure all affairs are in order so that their loved one’s wishes are respected and followed.
Our compassionate team at Nurse Next Door is here to support you and your loved ones every step of the way, providing guidance and resources to help you prepare for the end of life.
For an in-depth look at preparing for the end of life, visit our latest article here (COMING SOON).
Communication can be challenging for families who come into end-of-life care. At Nurse Next Door, we understand how hard it can be to discuss these sensitive topics with loved ones. Occasionally, patient autonomy can also be a factor that can affect communications with family members and can impact family communication down the road. It is also hard for families to come to a consensus when it comes to making end-of-life decisions. We get it; no one wants to go there. Misunderstandings and a lack of communication can lead to confusion, anxiety, and conflict. That is why it is so important to have open, honest communication and end-of-life discussions among your family and loved ones.
Our compassionate Care Team at Nurse Next Door supports families and guides them through difficult end-of-life conversations. We encourage open dialogue to promote medical understanding and clarity. We also offer resources and tools to help families communicate effectively, including advance care planning guides, family member meetings, and other related services.
4) End of Life Support
Another significant end-of-life issue many families face is not knowing where to turn for support. The complex nature of end-of-life care can be overwhelming, and many families feel lost and uncertain about navigating the healthcare system.
Navigating insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or even Veterans Affairs (if applicable) is complex and can take a lot of energy, time, and capacity. Financially, it can also burden families, especially if they’re seriously ill hospitalized patients. Having the support of knowing how to manage finances, affairs, and resources available is helpful during this difficult time.
Not having enough support during this challenging time can frequently lead to feelings of isolation and stress, further complicating the end-of-life process. In many cases, families may need to be made aware of the available resources and services or know how to access them. This can result in poor coordination and communication between healthcare providers, families, and patients.
At Nurse Next Door, we believe that no one should face the end of life alone. We are dedicated to providing compassionate and comprehensive support to individuals and families throughout their journeys. Our Care Teams offer guidance, resources, and practical assistance to ensure you can access helpful resources to make informed decisions while providing the best possible care to your loved ones.
For more information on end-of-life support and resources, visit our latest article here (COMING SOON).
We are here to help! Nurse Next Door is here to help you with end-of-life care and palliative care. Our goal is to support you and your family during this challenging time. Set up a FREE Caring Consult™ to receive support and plan for your hospice and palliative care.
Give us a call toll-free at +1(877) 588-8609.
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