A study published in the January 2014 edition of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reported that nearly 68 percent of people have concerns about end-of-life care such as the cost, the pain they might experience or issues of comfort and dignity. Nearly half (48.7 percent) reported having discussed the types of medical treatment they wished to receive in the event of a serious illness, yet, only 26.3 percent of participants had completed an advance directive. Not surprisingly, the top two reasons for not having an advance directive were lack of awareness and the belief that their families already knew their wishes.
Part of Arbor Hospice's mission as a community-based not-for-profit hospice is to educate the community on end-of-life care and advance care planning. In response to the concerns highlighted in this study and the lack of awareness about advance directives, Arbor Hospice wishes to share some of the most common end-of-life and advance care planning realities.
Myth: It is common for someone to experience a great deal of pain at the end of life.
Reality: Pain and other symptoms are common in individuals with serious illness, but pain and symptoms can be controlled. Hospice and palliative care doctors and nurses are specially trained to control each person's pain and other distressing symptoms, while honoring the patient's wishes.
Myth: Good care at the end of life is very expensive.
Reality: When someone spends time in a hospital or makes numerous doctors' visits, care can be expensive. For individuals who are willing to forgo curative treatments, hospice may be appropriate. Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances, and The Arbor Hospice Foundation raises money to cover the cost of care for the uninsured.
Myth: It is common to die in a hospital.
Reality: It is natural, and normal, for someone to go to the hospital when they are sick or dying. When cure is no longer a reality, you have a choice about where you want to be. Hospice and palliative care is available in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, private homes, some hospitals and residential hospices. Wherever a person calls home, they can receive care.
Myth: Choosing hospice means that I am giving up.
Reality: When cure is no longer possible, hospice provides the type of care most people say they want at the end of life - comfort and quality of life. The main focus of hospice is quality of life, pain and symptom control, emotional and spiritual support of the patient and their family and affirmation of life - making the most of each day.
Myth: My family and doctors know what I want at the end of life.
Reality: If you haven't talked with your family or doctor about your end of life wishes, they may not know what you are thinking. Each person has their own end of life preferences and your wishes may be different from those of your family. It is important to tell your loved ones what you want and share that with all of your doctors.
Myth: It is expensive to create an advance directive.
Reality: Advance directives are written instructions regarding your medical care preferences. This is the document your family and doctors will consult if you are unable to make your own health care decisions. Having written instructions can help reduce confusion or disagreement, and makes your wishes legal.
Many tools have been developed to help people and their families understand end-of-life issues and to aid in initiating conversations with loved ones, including The Conversation Project and Prepare. Arbor Hospice is also available to answer questions about the end of life and provide Five Wishes, an advance directive. You can also download Five Wishes here.
This blog entry was written by Gloria D. Brooks, Arbor Hospice President and CEO. You may contact Gloria by commenting below or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.