Whether for yourself or a loved one, planning for end-of-life care is one of the most challenging tasks we face. Not only do you have to have to discuss the reality of end of life, which can bring fear and pain to the surface, but also make difficult decisions about care when it matters most. Choosing the right end-of-life care can make the process as comfortable and comforting for everyone involved.
Patients, their doctors, or their families often choose to transition to hospice care when quality of life has diminished; this can happen as a result of increased pain, decreased hope due to diagnoses or other reason, or a combination of declining health and a patient’s very personal decision to discontinue life-prolonging measures. End-of-life care provides quality of life rather than quantity, or number of days.
End-of-life care typically refers to providing a level of care designed to keep the patient as comfortable and happy as possible without prolonging life. In most cases, this involves discontinuing medications that provide longevity rather than comfort, such as medications for the heart, while continuing medications that provide comfort such as pain-relievers. It also involves providing assistance with personal cares that provide comfort, such as bed baths, gentle repositioning to relieve pain, keeping the mouth moist, providing incontinence or toileting assistance, and massage.
End-of-life care can be provided in a number of settings: in a hospital, a senior living facility, a hospice unit, or at home. Home hospice should be considered; in most cases, in-home hospice care provides quality and comfort during your loved one’s end-of-life. Consider the following factors when comparing your options:
- Familiarity – When the dying are cared for at home, they’re in an environment that is familiar and comforting. Seeing, smelling, and touching things that feel like home during end of life can bring peace and a sense of well-being.
- Love – Home is filled with love. When hospice care is provided at home, loved ones are free to come and go and stay as long as they want. Friends and neighbors can stop by, cards and letters continue to come in, and the home is filled with memories of joyful times.
- One-on-One Care – When in-home care is provided, a single caregiver is dedicated to your loved one. Rather than making rounds every two hours, the caregiver provides undivided attention to your loved one’s needs and comfort. Personal friendships inevitably develop between the caregiver and the patient.
- Inclusion – Family members are able to step in and help their loved one whenever their schedule allows while having relief when unable. Many family members take great pleasure in providing comforting care during end-of-life but have their own children at home, employment, and other obligations that prevent them from providing care around the clock.
- Personal Care Plan – While a hospice patient will have a personal care plan in any institution, their care plan at home is governed only by their own wishes and desires. Full-time caregivers can focus on providing exactly what the patient wants, whether that includes specific music, essential oils, prayer, readings, or massage, their end-of-life experience can be tailored to their wishes and visions for this time.
While end-of-life planning be challenging, choosing the right option for ongoing comfort and care during this time can make the process peaceful for the patient and family.