Thursday, June 25, 2015

How To Decide On Your Loved Ones' End-of-Life Care

By Felicity Dryer

Deciding on end-of-life care is one of the most important decisions you can make, and there are many factors that go into it, like:
      How much care is needed?
      How much care can you afford?
      How involved do you want to be?
      Where is the care going to happen?
      Are there any pre-existing directives for care?

All of these are outstanding questions, but they can also be a little intimidating to answer. Today, I’m going to walk you through the process of answering these questions and ultimately making a decision you’ll be happy with.

How Much Care Is Needed?

There’s no point in worrying about the care itself until you know how much of it you need - a senior who only needs a few pills each week probably doesn’t need a live-in assistant! Unfortunately, this question is difficult to answer because none of us know how much care we’re actually going to need in the last decade or two of our life.

As such, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor each time there’s a major change in your loved one’s condition and ask about the kind of help and care they’ll need. Once you know how much care is needed, you can start focusing on the other questions.

How Much Care Can You Afford?

Not every household can afford the very best in medical treatments - but families often find themselves on the hook for payments if their normal claims are denied. Cost is a real factor in end-of-life care decisions, but it doesn’t have to be as frightening as you think, especially when you know how to keep things on a budget.

Once you know what you need, you can start looking to see how much it costs - and check to see if there are alternative payments or more affordable alternatives. For example, a permanent live-in caregiver could be quite costly, but someone who only visits for an hour or two every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday could be far easier to fit into your budget.

The most important thing is getting the care your loved ones actually need - and with a little bit of training, chances are you can give most of that care yourself if necessary.

How Involved Do You Want To Be?

The advice I’ve just given assumes that you want to be involved in caring for your loved ones as they continue to age - but that’s not true for every family. Some people honestly don’t want to see the ravages of problems like disease and dementia, preferring to only create happy memories.

This is a personal decision, and there are no right or wrong answers. However, you should keep in mind that the more you’re willing to do yourself, the less the care is likely to cost you. You can also split the care between several members of your family - if each of you visits on a different day of the week, you could provide steady and regular care without the stress of doing it yourself every single day.

Where Is The Care Going To Happen?

The answer to this question is dictated mainly by the answers to the three above it. Some types of health care require being in a hospital or other long-term care facility, while others can easily be administered at home with little or no trouble. It’s worth noting that as seniors continue to age, they’re more likely to need permanent supervision of some kind - even if you’re willing to live with them for now, you may want to have a plan for transferring them to a nursing home or other facility at some point.

Are There Any Pre-Existing Directives For Care?

In a way, this is the most important question to ask - because some people don’t want extra care. They may not want to be kept on life support, or continue to stick around if they’re completely bedridden and rapidly going downhill anyway. This is especially true if they’re in a great deal of pain.

It’s best to follow these advance decisions as much as possible. This allows your loved ones to stay in control of their medical decisions - and allows you to know that even if their minds are fading now, they’d be happy that you did what they asked. However, remember that they may change their minds as they continue to age, and that they’re allowed to do so as long as they remain legally competent to make their own decisions. Consider revisiting their advance decisions annually to see if there are any changes they’d like to see made - and stay informed about the rules and regulations for advance directives.

Originally born in Flagstaff, Arizona, Felicity Dryer was raised by her parents (more or less modern-day hippies) to always make her health a top priority. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career as a freelance health writer, and continues to help those seeking encouragement to keep moving forward to achieve their goals.

Thanks Felicity!

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