What Is End-of-Life Care?
None of us will live forever and, while most of us opt not to think much about the end of our lives, when we do stop to consider our final days, our best hope is to go as peacefully as possible.
End-of-life care is healthcare provided with that precise goal in mind: making a person’s final days as comfortable as possible.
In most cases it takes the form of hospice care, but in those cases where people don’t see the end coming, end-of-life care can mean following an advance directive.
In most cases where someone refers to end-of-life care, they’re talking about hospice care. When a person, their loved ones, and their doctor all recognize that the point has come where death is likely imminent and pushing it off with preventative measures will only cause more suffering, then it’s time to consider switching over to hospice care.
In some cases, this is a decision that the ill person is actively involved in. In cases where the person has dementia or another form of illness that affects their ability to understand the situation they’re in and make an informed decision, it will fall to the closest family members and their doctor.
It’s important to understand that hospice care shouldn’t be seen as a negative. It’s not giving up. If someone is moved into hospice care and bounces back, it’s possible to switch back to health care more focused on healing.
The point of hospice is to allow people the chance to switch their focus to comfort rather than prioritizing getting better at all costs. Many illnesses involve treatments that are painful, and there are situations where certain types of painkillers are best avoided when the goal is to get better, where they could significantly ease someone’s suffering if their primary goal switches to comfort.
Hospice Home Care vs Inpatient Care
Patients who prefer to die in their own home have the option of calling in hospice to come to their house. For patients who reach the point of needing hospice while staying in a nursing home or another inpatient facility, hospice will also attend to them there.
Medicare does cover hospice care, so most families should be able to afford it. One caveat is that they’ll often cover either hospice care or a nursing home stay, so if a patient is staying at a nursing home under Medicare, then hospice care may cost them extra.
In any case, the whole goal of hospice is to help people die on their own terms in the most comfortable way possible. Whatever the setting, they offer compassionate end-of-life care to those who need it.
In most cases, hospice care kicks in at a point where people are able to plan for death and prepare themselves. Not everyone gets that chance though. Some illnesses and injuries put a patient in the position of no longer being able to advocate for themselves and what kind of end-of-life care they want.
That’s where advance health care directives come in. If you want to be sure you have a say in your end-of-life care, take the time to create an advance directive. It will ensure your family knows what you want and can carry out your wishes when the time comes, if you’re not able to advocate for them yourself at that point.
For many people, the day will come when accepting that death is near makes more sense than continuing to fight the inevitable. When that day comes, end-of-life care can make one’s remaining days as painless as possible. Both hospice care and advance directives give patients power over their care options at a point when their power can feel limited otherwise. How you spend your final days should be up to you, end-of-life care is designed to help you achieve that.