The time to talk about end-of-life care isn’t when a crisis hits; it’s well before. For seniors and their families, navigating the final stages of life can be a complex and emotionally charged process.

Studies indicate that just 25 percent of Americans have recorded their end-of-life medical wishes in a legal document. The problem with this is that more than half of patients are unable to participate in end-of-life decisions when they need to be made. In many cases, the default decision in a medical situation where the patient is unable to make a decision is to treat aggressively. This may not follow the wishes of the patient, but without the proper documentation, doctors have no way of knowing that.

Following her mother’s death, Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman launched The Conversation Project as a public engagement initiative to encourage families to talk about end-of-life care. Though Goodman and her mom were very close, they had never discussed her mother’s wishes. When Ellen’s mother entered the final stage of dementia, she no longer was able to make decisions for herself.

“I was left facing a cascading number of decisions for which I was really quite unprepared, blindsided and pretty shocked,” Goodman told NextAvenue. I realized then that I wished that I had her voice in my ear while I was making these decisions, and I wished that we’d talked about what mattered to her.”

The topics of Advance Care Planning and Advance Healthcare Directives (the latter also referred to as a living will) can be uncomfortable and challenging to talk about – which is why preparing for the end of one’s life often is an avoided task. However, not being prepared for a situation in which you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself can be disadvantageous to you as a patient and to your family. This is why Dr. Michael Demoratz, co-author of Dying 101: A Candid Conversation on Terminal Illness,” focuses on educating families about the importance of Advance Care Planning.

“If you deal with some of these issues before they become a crisis, they’re easier to handle,” said Dr. Demoratz, National Clinical Director for Amada Senior Care

Some seniors may shy away from Advance Care Planning because they think it is a complicated legal process that must involve a lawyer. In reality, there are only two forms to be considered, both of which can be completed by a healthcare professional – an Advance Health Care Directive and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).

Understanding End-of-Life Care

End-of-life care is dedicated to providing comfort, respect and dignity to those in the final stages of life. It encompasses physical, emotional, social, and spiritual support, not just for the patient, but also for their families. Planning for this phase involves discussing healthcare options, living wills, power of attorney, and other preferences regarding treatments and final arrangements.

The Importance of Early Planning for End-of-Life Care

Discussing end-of-life care early offers numerous benefits. It ensures that the senior’s wishes are understood and respected, reduces the burden on family members to make tough decisions in stressful times, and can also alleviate financial and emotional burdens that come with last-minute arrangements.

Peace of Mind: Knowing that there is a plan in place brings comfort to both seniors and their families.

Empowerment: Early discussions empower seniors to make decisions about their care and final wishes.

Preparedness: Families are better prepared to handle the complexities and responsibilities that come with end-of-life care.

Tips for Seniors and Families on What to Include in an End-of-Life Care Plan

Start the Conversation Early: Bring up the subject at a calm time when everyone involved is ready to listen and contribute. CLICK HERE to watch an AARP video offering tips on how to talk about end-of-life care.

Legal Documentation: Ensure legal documents, such as living wills and healthcare powers of attorney, are in order. These documents spell out the senior’s wishes for medical treatment and designate someone to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable.

Financial Planning: Look into the cost of end-of-life care, including hospice, home care, or nursing home care, and explore insurance options.

LTC News, the online resource for unbiased long-term care information, reports that many long-term care insurance policies will cover hospice in your home or in a facility and that Medicare covers hospice care for 60 days.

Healthcare Preferences: Discuss preferences for medical intervention, life support and comfort care at the end of life.

Memorial Plans: Some may find it comforting to discuss funeral or memorial wishes in advance to ensure their life is celebrated as they desire.

How Amada Senior Care Supports Seniors Creating an End-of-Life Care Plan

At Amada Senior Care, we offer compassionate support and guidance through end-of-life care planning and services. Our team can assist with:

  • In-home care options that respect the senior’s wish to remain at home
  • Navigating hospice choices and services
  • Legal and financial planning resources
  • Emotional and grief support for families
  • Education on what to expect in the final stages of life

Reaching Out for Compassionate Support and Advance Care Planning Guidance

It’s never too early to begin planning for end-of-life care. If you or a senior loved one are starting to think about these decisions, reach out to Amada Senior Care. We’re here to provide the support, resources and care you need to navigate these challenging conversations and decisions with ease and grace. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. Together, we can ensure that the final chapter is approached with the dignity and respect every senior deserves.