Dealing with advanced illness and end of life care for a loved one is hard. Many realize far too late that we should be asking tough questions, like how our loved ones wanted to be cared for in their final days. Those answers could help your decision making in final treatments like chemotherapy, blood transfusions and final resting place requests before it’s too late.
We know talking about end-of-life care may not be pleasant, doing so is a must, while you still can.
We all know someone with a story about struggling through the stressful environment of a hospital and medical decisions when a loved one is seriously ill.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) talks about being the son of a mother and father who suffered from two … terrible diseases … cancer and Alzheimer’s. Having not discussed the ‘what-ifs’ when his mom was of sound mind and body, they were guessing in trying to figure out the right thing to do.
This is a challenge almost all families face. Over the next two decades, the number of people over 65 will nearly double, to more than 72 million, or one in five Americans. Most people with advanced illness are in this age group. If we don’t make things better, they will be at higher risk for unnecessary hospitalizations, unwanted treatment, adverse drug reactions and conflicting medical advice, with resulting higher cost-of-care to families and the nation, says Bill Novelli, the co-chair of C-TAC and co-author of “A Roadmap for Success: Transforming Advanced Illness Care in America.”
Dr. Atul Gawande, in his best-selling book, “Being Mortal,” wrote: “Give us a disease and we can do something about it … but give us an elderly woman at risk of losing the life she enjoys … and we hardly know what to do, and often only make matters worse.”
Relatives and caregivers present huge difficulties in getting advanced illness care right, we have a hard time talking out the issues and don’t plan ahead enough. Most of us are unprepared for the issues of serious illness and we don’t ask our elders about their wishes until it’s too late.
Start these conversations now with your aging parents and your children and family about your own needs and wants at your end of life. Don’t wait for a crisis- create a plan for your family’s routine care. The conversations should be repeated as preferences can change as people age. As a result you can rest easy that the needs of your loved ones, and yourself, are met and the stress of not knowing the answers are minimal.