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What is end of life care?

You may have heard this described as end of life care or palliative care, but do you really understand what it means?

End of life care is help for people who are in the last few months or years of their life. However, when death will happen is not an exact science, even if there is a medical expectation. With effective planning, decisions can be made before end of life care is necessary to make sure an individual receives the care and support they wish.

Every individual has a right to express their wishes about where they want to receive end of life care ie at home, in a hospice or in hospital.The use of powers of attorney and advance directives can ensure that people close to you can make decisions and express your wishes on your behalf. The preparation of a personal care plan is often the best way to make sure that wishes are in one place and regular review ensures that wishes are kept up to date according to changes in health.

When talking about end of life care most people consider this to be "switching off the machine" but it is so much more than that. Care at end of life is tailored to the individual needing it. It therefore goes without saying that the person needing care should be at the centre of all decisions. End of life care can involve treatment for people who have an incurable illness, are frail, have existing conditions which are crisis driven or have a life threatening acute condition caused by a catastrophic event.

Palliative care is part of end of life care which makes an individual as comfortable as possible if they have an illness that cannot be cured. Palliative care will involve pain management, psychological, social and spiritual support not just for the person at the end of this life but their family.

As end of life care is so important experts have agreed that there are five important priorities for care and support that a person and their family should receive in the last few days and hours of life:-

  • Patients should be seen by a doctor regularly. If they believe death is imminent the individual and their family should be told

  • Staff involved with care should speak sensitively and honestly to the individual and family members

  • Patients and family should be involved in decisions about treatment and care, if that is what the patient wants

  • The needs of family and other people close to the patients should be met as far as possible

  • An individual care plan should be agreed with the patient and delivered with compassion

End of life planning is not something that should be left until the end of life. As we age and experience different things we develop wishes and feelings about what should happen to us if we become unwell. End of life should not automatically be considered as something that affects the older generations. The unexpected happens and end of life can come at any age.

If you would like to have assistance with end of life planning for the future please give us a call as the team are happy to help.

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