We, at eFuneral, have discussed the difficult decisions terminally ill individuals have to make, particularly around their choices for end-of-life care. Judith Johnson, an author, educator, coach, and interfaith minister, recently gave her advice to the Huffington Post on the topics such patients should have with their doctors. To start, Ms. Johnson suggests thinking about your own preferences for end-of-life care before getting input from your doctor and making a list of questions or concerns that you want to discuss with your healthcare team. Knowing what you want can keep you from feeling intimidated in the event that your wishes differ from the doctor’s recommendations. Conversations about your end-of-life care should be discussions – not lectures from the physician on what you should or should not do.
If you’ve been given a terminal diagnosis, make sure to complete your advance directives, including a living will and healthcare proxy, to ensure that your wishes will be honored if and when you are not able to advocate on your own behalf – and then share those with your healthcare team. It would also be helpful to have the person you choose as your healthcare proxy at your doctor appointments so they are kept in the loop. “If they are not available, be sure to have someone else with you who can provide emotional support, take notes, and help you to remember everything you wanted to discuss with the doctor as well as what the doctor has to say,” recommends Ms. Johnson. And make sure that your conversations with your healthcare team include discussions on your personal values about death and dying in addition to discussions on your prognosis and the alternative forms of treatment available. “For each protocol, ask the doctor to explain the risks, benefits, side effects of treatment, and the probabilities of success or failure as well as a definition of what success or failure would look like and the probable time line,” says Ms. Johnson.
At each appointment, take your time, and ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable that you’re making the best decisions for your care. Take your time, and don’t let anyone rush you into making a decision. And if your doctor or healthcare team does not mention hospice or palliative care – ask! These services are often helpful to those facing end-of-life, so find out your doctors’ perspective on these types of end-of-life care.
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