How to Have a Candid Conversation About End-of-Life Care
When asked if it is important to talk with a doctor regarding end-of-life care, 80 percent of people surveyed responded “yes”. However, just 7 percent of the people surveyed have had an end-of-life conversation with their doctor.*
Start the conversation
It is natural for many of us to avoid talking about the end of life. Thus, many of us avoid speaking to our doctors about what type of end-of-life care we would want. A lack of communication with our doctor causes confusion about desired medical treatments and choices that can be pre-determined.
Individuals who talked with their physician or families about their preferences for end-of-life care:
- Had less fear and anxiety;
- Felt they had more ability to influence and direct their medical care;
- Believed that their physicians and family had a better understanding of their wishes; and
- Indicated a greater understanding and comfort level than they had before the discussion.
Do not wait for your doctor to ask about your wishes
Chances are, your doctor is waiting for you to start the conversation. Here are some things to consider when talking to your doctor:
- Let your doctor know that you want to talk about end of life care;
- Make sure you understand all the legal medical documents available through your state such as DMOST/POLST, Living Will and/or Advanced Healthcare Directive;
- DMOST/POLST are for individuals with a serious illness diagnosis.
- Living Will and Advanced Healthcare Directive are for “healthy” individuals who are 18 years old and older.
- Ask your doctor to explain any treatment/ procedure options that you find confusing;
- Talk about pain control and symptom management options;
- Share your thoughts on what is important to you; if you choose quality over quantity of life, let them know; and
- Give your doctor a copy of your completed forms and the contact information of your appointed healthcare agent.
Your Living Will and Advanced Healthcare Directives can be modified and should be updated every two-three years or earlier if your health changes. A DMOST/POLST form should be reviewed every time a new health concern arises with your serious illness.
There is no right time to talk about end-of-life care with your doctor and family. To get the help you need and to learn more about your healthcare options, visit delawarehospice.org/planning-ahead or give Delaware Hospice a call at (302) 478-5707.
Delaware Hospice locations:
New Castle County
16 Polly Drummond Shopping Center (Intersection of Polly Drummond Hill Road and New Linden Hill Road); second floor
Newark, Del., 19711
911 South DuPont Hwy.
Dover, Del., 19901
100 Patriots Way
Milford, Del., 19963
1786 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Suite 200 A
Glen Mills, Pa., 19342