End-of-life planning is a hard topic for many families to talk about, but it is very important and necessary. Eighty million American families reported that they haven’t talked about any end-of-life issues together, and 70% of end-of-life conversations happen because of a health crisis or emergency event. End-of-life plans need to be carefully made. Otherwise, families have to make important decisions without having time to think them through. Most people report feeling relieved after having these talks.
By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of having to make decisions at times of crisis or grief.
Living wills and other advance directives are written, legal instructions about your wishes for medical care if you can’t make decisions for yourself. Advance directives guide doctors and caregivers if you're terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life. By creating these documents, you can be clear about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.
Being prepared is key, and the sooner a person talks about their wishes with family, the better because we never know when something will happen. Meet with your health care provider to create or review your advance directives. Talking about your wishes with your family and health care provider beforehand can help everyone understand what you want.
Our community is lucky, as Cone Health offers exceptional palliative care, family medicine, social work, spiritual care and other related services dedicated to helping people to prepare advance medical directives and talk with family about end-of-life wishes. Mind My Health is a new, free online tool and partnership Cone Health is in that makes it easy to fill out and manage your advanced directives online.
Elizabeth Golding, DO, is the medical director of Cone Health Palliative Medicine Services and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. She completed medical school at Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine and her residency at Cone Health’s Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital.