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What Is End of Life Care?

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  • Written By: Lumara Lee
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 May 2019
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End of life care is the type of medical care and support a person receives when in the final stages of terminal illness with no hope of improvement. Palliation plays a large role in end of life care. Its purpose is to keep the individual as comfortable as possible. End of life care is given in the patient’s home, in a skilled nursing facility, or in a hospital. Hospice services and home health care agencies are available to help family members care for their dying loved ones at home.

Toward the end of life, some people become unable to move well, take care of their basic grooming needs, or follow instructions. This is the point when many require outside help, and end of life care includes the services provided by home health care agencies. These companies send trained aides and/or nurses who can perform a wide variety of services at the home. Home health personnel can shave, bathe and dress patients, treat wounds and change bandages, provide several types of therapy, give injections, and monitor the status of a patient’s health. Some home health care agencies also offer hospice services or are used in conjunction with another hospice agency.

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Hospice provides palliative medical care in the home to the terminal patient who is no longer receiving any kind of curative treatment. A hospice also provides emotional support to the patient and family. The services a hospice provides include educating family caregivers about the dying process, delivering prescription drugs to the home when needed, teaching caregivers how to administer drugs, and providing a hospital bed and oxygen tanks, if needed. Hospice basically provides everything needed to help the terminally ill die comfortably at home, and helps the family members know what to expect and what to do. Utilizing home health and hospice services to care for a dying patient at home is cheaper than end of life care provided in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

An advance directive is recommended so medical personnel will know how much medical intervention the patient wishes at the end. Sometimes the terminally ill become mentally incompetent and cannot make decisions about end of life care. An advance directive is filed when the person is mentally competent and able to make decisions about the type of medical intervention he wishes to have, if any. Do not resuscitate orders, commonly known as DNRs, are part of the advance directive when an individual doesn’t want any resuscitation attempts at the end of life.

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Ana1234
Post 3

@browncoat - There's a big difference between someone in a hospice and someone in a rest home though. My grandfather was in a hospice for his last few months and it was miserable for everyone. He was hardly ever conscious and never lucid enough to recognize anyone around him. He couldn't eat, so for a while they basically had to force-feed him, and he couldn't breathe properly either, so he seemed to constantly struggle.

It was heart-breaking and it went on for months with no hope that he would "get better" only that he would let go.

browncoat
Post 2

@irontoenail - My problem with that is that often people talk about not wanting to be old because they feel they will be a burden on everyone. As someone who has lost grandparents and a parent, I can tell you that death is the greater burden.

I'm not against euthanasia in cases where someone is brain-dead or in tremendous pain, but I do think that our culture doesn't know how to embrace age properly, both in ourselves and in others.

Just because a body is becoming more difficult to haul around doesn't mean that that person has no value, or can't contribute to the world.

Maybe our current end of life care isn't exactly ideal, but I don't think the answer is to remove it altogether.

irontoenail
Post 1

My father always used to say that he hated the idea of being put in an old folks home, or a hospice. He wanted to wait until he was almost at that point and then swim out to sea and "let the fishes have me", which I told him was ridiculous.

In the end he died relatively young of a heart attack anyway, so it never became an issue. But I know he felt very strongly about the idea, so I am glad that it seems like euthanasia is becoming more of an option in a few places. I would never choose that for him, of course, but I wouldn't have stood in the way if he wanted to make that choice himself.

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