Hospice urges everyone to consider, discuss end-of-life care
by Rachel Davis
Oct 29, 2013 | 952 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It isn’t a fun topic or something that many people like to think about, but end-of-life care is something that Comfort Care Hospice is urging people of all ages to discuss with their loved ones.

The company is screening the documentary “Consider the Conversation: a documentary on a taboo subject” for private audiences in honor of November being named Home Health and Hospice Month. Alabama Public Television will also air the film, which features personal end-of-life stories from patients, family members, doctors, nurses, clergy members and national experts. The movie will air Wednesday at 7 p.m and again Sunday, Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.

Craig Greer, director of special programs for Comfort Care, said that too often people find themselves unprepared to make decisions for their loved ones.

“People get in a crisis and they don’t have a plan,” Greer said. “The hardest thing is people saying, ‘I know what I would want, but I don’t know what they would want.’”

According to statistics, approximately 50 percent of people are unable to make their own end-of-life decision due to incapacity, and, on average, 56 percent of those people have not communicated their end-of-life wishes to family members.

Greer said he encourages anyone over the age of 18 to consider their options and choices and relay those wishes to those closest to them — the people who will have to make those decisions for them if the need arises.

He stresses that the options available to patients can be in-depth or they can be minimal, depending on the wishes of each individual.

Those options include questions about what measures the patient would want to have done to prolong life, as well as when they would like the curative efforts to stop.

Things like the use of ventilators and feeding tubes are included, as well as the types of situation where they might be used. For instance, a patient who was in a car accident but has hope of recovery might want a feeding tube and ventilator to be used while they recover, but that same patient may not want those measures used to prolong their life in the event of a terminal illness. Those items can all be covered by the directives.

“It’s as much about what you want as what you don’t want,” Greer said.

Approximately 70 percent of people say they would prefer to die at home, but statistics show that approximately 70 percent of patients die in hospitals. That may be because only 7 percent of people say they have talked to their doctors about their options and preferences for end-of-life care.

There are three important parts of communicating these wishes, according to the website, www.conversationproject.org:

•Advance Care Planning: the process of thinking about your preferences for care at the end of life—exactly what you have been working on here.

•Advance Directive: the document that describes your preferences for care in case you are unable to make health care decisions on your own. It is also known as a living will.

•Health Care Proxy: identifies your health care agent (often called a “proxy”), the person you trust to act on your behalf if you are unable to make health care decisions or communicate your wishes.

In some states, this is called the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This is probably the most important document. Make sure you have many conversations with your proxy.

There is also a living will, which specifies exactly what medical treatments you would or wouldn’t want in the case of incapacity.

The website also offers a worksheet to help people consider their options and understand what is most important to them.

Anyone interested in more information can contact Greer at cgreer@comfortcarehospice.org or the chaplain for the Jasper office of Comfort Care, Scott Peters, at speters@comfortcarehospice.org or (205) 663-6887.