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The topic of end-of-life planning is generally difficult for people. We don’t like to think about it or discuss it, but without planning, we will have fewer options, and things may not go as expected.
You may wish to pass away in the comfort of your home, but without making proper arrangements in advance, you may end up in a hospital or nursing home. Or you may be kept alive by artificial means for a long period when you would rather pass on.
By planning for your end-of-life care, you can rest easier knowing that you can control what happens.
Things to Consider When Planning for End-of-Life Care
End-of-life experiences differ from person to person. For some people, death comes quickly. For others, the process can take days, weeks, or even months. Sometimes, a person’s body weakens while their mind remains lucid. In other cases, the body continues to function, but the mind fades with dementia. And with a severe illness or accident, a person may be comatose before their body and mind both cease to function.
People who are near the end of their lives generally need care in four areas:
- Physical comfort
- Mental and emotional well-being
- Spiritual comfort
- Daily care
Think about how you want your needs met in these areas and your preference for where you want to receive care. Do you want to spend the end of your life in your home, hospital, or other medical facility? Do you want family and friends with you? Would you prefer to receive care and treatment until the end or for a specified time? How long would you want to receive palliative care for a serious illness, and at what point would you want to begin hospice?
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses, such as cancer. In addition to receiving treatment for their serious illness, patients receive palliative care for the symptoms of the illness, the effects of the treatment, or both. An example of palliative care would be a patient treating anemia caused by complications of cancer.
Palliative care enhances the patient’s life by focusing on the quality of their life. Palliative care can be provided anywhere, from hospitals and clinics to skilled nursing facilities or patients’ homes. Some private health insurance providers cover palliative care. Veterans may be eligible for palliative care through the VA. The public may have access to palliative care through Medicaid and Medicare.
Many people with terminal illnesses reach a point when their treatment is no longer effective. At this stage, they can end the treatment for their terminal illness and switch to hospice care. Like palliative care, hospice care focuses on comfort and quality of life but without trying to cure the terminal illness. The number of patients who choose hospice care is growing. Hospice care also provides support for the patient’s family.
Since hospice care is more of an approach to care than a type of treatment, hospice patients can receive care wherever they are, including in the comfort of their homes. Hospice care may be covered by Medicare, the VA, and health insurance companies. Check with your insurance provider to find out if they cover hospice care.
Communicating Your Wishes
End-of-life planning is a highly personal matter. Take the time to decide what types of treatments and care you want near the end of your life. Give equal consideration to treatments you don’t want to receive. It may help to discuss your wishes and options with your family and an elder law attorney.
Once you’ve made your decisions about end-of-life care, formalize them in the appropriate legal documents. Make sure your loved ones know your wishes and where they can find your legal documents. If you can’t communicate with medical professionals due to serious illness or injury, the people you name as health care agents can promptly make decisions on your behalf.
It’s important to keep your legal documents updated if you change your mind. It’s never too early to plan for end-of-life care or medical emergencies. Contact us today to learn how we can help you and your loved ones plan for the future and gain peace of mind.
Our law firm is dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.
This article offers a summary of aspects of estate planning and elder law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For assistance, please contact our Forty Fort office or call (570) 288-1800.