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Palliative Care and End of Life

Families talk about the good and the bad. They chitchat about the weather and gossip about local news. They say things like “I love you.” They argue about money or politics or household chores. But no matter how impassioned or difficult conversations can be among family members, the one topic people often avoid is end of life. Please visit www.prepareforyourcare.org to learn more about making medical decisions for you and your loved ones, talking to your doctor, and getting the medical care that is right for you.

End of life isn’t easy to discuss. Still, it’s a conversation that should happen well before end of life is near so that preferences can be honored.

An important talking point that patients should make with loved ones and their primary care physicians is palliative care, which is specialized medical care for people with chronic or terminal illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness, with the goal of enhancing quality of life for both patients and caregivers. Discussed and initiated early, palliative care can make patients feel better physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Other matters to discuss are health care preferences in the event that capacity for decision making is lost. These include whether—or the extent that—life-sustaining treatments should be administered, as well as whom should be designated to make health care decisions on behalf of the patient. Completing a health care proxy form and designating a health care agent are end-of-life planning measures people can take to guarantee their preferences are honored.

These are the major talking points people should share with loved ones and their physicians regarding palliative care and end of life. Other concerns may be discovered through candid, thorough discussion. As difficult as it may be to broach such topics and initiate conversations, doing so as early as possible allows patients to live more comfortably and feel supported throughout their illnesses.

Talk to your family, and your doctor, today.