Difficult conversations lie ahead when you or a loved one are faced with a terminal or life-threatening illness. Having conversations about your final wishes, how you want to manage any continued treatment and where you want to spend the time you have left can feel like “giving up”. However, sharing your thoughts and feelings with your loved ones and medical team is important. It can provide you with peace of mind, comfort and a sense of freedom. Many patients who have these conversations express relief. They also minimize emotional burdens and often have an easier time focusing on continued curative approaches or symptom management.
Your path forward may help you to determine that palliative care or hospice care is best for your family, or perhaps you are still in the hospital and exploring a strictly curative path. Whatever the case, honestly and frankly discussing your wishes is important. It helps to ensure that, should the time come when you can no longer verbalize your wishes, they are respected. It also makes moving forward easier and can bring a sense of peace when and if the end of life comes.
Having these discussions is not easy. Sometimes, having a guide helps. Here are some questions to consider as you speak with your family.
What is my / your understanding of my health condition and prognosis?
This is a difficult question to discuss. However, it is also an important one. Most families find value in including medical providers in these conversations. Having a clear understanding about your condition, the potential side effects, anticipated timeline and opportunities for recovery helps as you make your decisions. Ensuring that your loved ones also understand these things makes it easier to express your wishes and know they will be honored.
What are my goals?
This question helps you to express what your current and future goals are. Perhaps you want to continue treatment at this time with support from palliative care. If that is the case, how long do you think you want to prolong curative approaches? Are there things that might happen that would cause you to reconsider this course? If your wishes are to enter hospice care, explain why you feel the way you do and what, if anything, might change your mind.
What are my fears?
No one wants to talk about the things that scare them, but talking about fears is often the best way to create an effective and appropriate plan of care. For instance, if you fear pain, comfort measures through hospice or palliative care might help. If you fear death, conversations with a spiritual advisor might provide some relief. If you fear leaving your family behind, knowing that they have made final plans for their financial future and bereavement counseling can make a difference.
How does a good day look or feel?
Even when faced with a serious medical condition, opportunities exist to have good days. Make it your goal to enjoy a few. To do this, you need to first define what a good day looks and feels like. Is it a day spent with family? Perhaps it is a day without pain? Is it a day spent at a favorite place or reliving a favorite memory? Is there a gift that helps you to have a better day? When your family and medical team know what a good day looks like in your eyes, it is easier for them to help you transform those visions into reality.
A medical condition brings plenty of fear, but it also brings opportunities for hope. Have important conversations as soon as possible and have them often. Your answers may change as you progress through your illness. Salus Homecare Los Angeles is always here to answer questions or provide services and create a plan of care that makes this stage of life a little easier to walk through. Just let us know how we can help.