April 18, 2018
TO THE EDITOR:
First lady Barbara Bush’s decision to choose comfort care has sparked a conversation about what it means to stop aggressively fighting terminal illness and emphasized the importance of advance directives.
Comfort care is an essential form of medical care provided at the end of life to soothe a person who is dying. The goals of comfort care are to manage symptoms and prevent or relieve suffering in order to improve one’s quality of life and retain the dying person’s wishes and dignity. Hospice is comfort care, without the intent to cure, because the natural dying process is permitted to occur while assuring maximum comfort. Comfort provided by hospice supports emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of the patient and the family.
Advance directives clearly communicate a person’s health care wishes to their family and medical providers, relieving relatives of the burden of deciding what their loved one would have wanted. Making your wishes known when you are still able to make decisions, and putting them in writing, is a great relief to your family. This document allows them to know they are following what you would have wanted including whether you want certain aggressive treatments as well as what you don’t want.
Only 37 percent of Americans have completed advance directives, even though most people say it is important to make sure their family does not have to make such tough decisions on their behalf. Advance directives are critical for people of all ages because a healthcare crisis can occur at any time: during a serious illness, after an automobile accident or head injury, or during a heart attack or stroke.
Coastal Hospice and Palliative Care have trained staff available to assist with advance directives and related questions. Staff recently worked with representatives from MAC, Inc. to host one-on-one advance directives education throughout the community as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16. National Healthcare Decisions Day is a national effort to provide clear, concise, consistent information on healthcare decision-making to the public and providers.
Coastal Hospice recognizes that when it comes to end-of-life decisions, no single guide or conversation will cover all the scenarios and decisions you and your family may face. But, a conversation can provide a shared understanding of what matters most to you and your loved ones. It can make it easier to make decisions when the time comes.
Call our office at 410-742-8732 to find out more about comfort care, advance and other services available through Coastal Hospice.
Alane K. Capen
Coastal Hospice & Palliative Care