Caregiver & Elder Care News
Ten Questions About End-of-Life Care to Ask Your Aging
May seem downright frightening, but it is important to
know your parents' preferences at the end of life; may also be questions
for discussion with a spouse
By Amy Tucci, President, CEO, Hospice Foundation of
15, 2014 - If you have aging parents, now is the time to discuss what's
important to them as they near the end of their lives. Too many adult
children wait to have end-of-life conversations when their parents are
dying or in the midst of a crisis.
The topic may seem downright
frightening, but it is important to know your parents' preferences at
the end of life, particularly if they develop a serious illness or
condition that leaves them unable to make decisions.
A good time to have an end-of-life
talk is during the holidays when family is together. If your parents
wish to avoid such a conversation altogether, they can record their
preferences in a living will, a dated letter or even in an email. None
of their decisions are permanent, and they can always change their
preferences at a later date as long as they can competently communicate.
Because starting a discussion about
life-and-death issues can be difficult, here are 10 questions to help
guide the conversation:
Thinking about your death,
what do you value most about your life?
If you were diagnosed with a
terminal illness, would you want to pursue every possible cure?
Do you imagine wanting to
stop curative efforts if they were unsuccessful?
What kinds of aggressive
treatments would you want (or not want)?
Do you want to die at home?
How do you feel about an
How much pain is acceptable
Do you want to be with your
family when you die?
What decisions regarding
care do you want to entrust to others?
What do you hope for most
regarding your death?
There are three care options to
consider if your parents are facing a diagnosis with a poor prognosis.
.... They can choose to continue efforts to cure or treat an
illness or condition.
.... They can receive palliative care (pain and symptom
management and relief) alone or in addition to curative care.
.... Or they can choose hospice care.
With hospice, a fully covered
Medicare benefit, futile curative measures cease and palliative care
eliminates or greatly reduces pain and symptoms. The patient receives
medical and social services, typically at home, and the entire family
receives supportive services.
You can get a glimpse into the
hospice experience in a recent special program, "Hospice: Something
More." Produced by Hospice Foundation of America and funded by a grant
from the John and Wauna Harman Foundation, the program is available for
viewing at hospicefoundation.org.
If having an end-of-life discussion
with your parents is simply unworkable, consider asking a trusted
friend, health or social service professional to facilitate and document
a discussion. Again, do not wait until an illness forces you to have
this conversation. One of the most common comments that hospice
professionals hear from patients and families is that they wish they had
started hospice care earlier.
So what are you waiting for? Now is
the time to talk to your aging parents about end-of-life care.