Few of us think to ask loved ones what they would like to have happen at the end of their lives. Many of us assume that they would like to live as long as possible and fail to consider other priorities. It’s important that we know and respect their views.
Doctors and researchers have begun to study these issues. Dr. Atul Gawande has a new book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, in which he offers the following advice.
- Ask your loved ones about their end of life priorities. Do it repeatedly over time since their views are likely to change. And, have them complete an advance directive.
- Find out what they consider their health condition to be.
- Understand what they would like to see happen if their condition worsens, what they are most afraid of and the tradeoffs they would want to make.
People at the end of life who know about hospice care often choose it because it focuses on alleviating pain and ensuring people’s comfort. In many cases, Medicare pays for hospice care at home. To read a piece Dr. Gawande wrote about a friend at the end of life, click here. For help finding care at the end of life, visit the eldercare locator.