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End-of-Life Planning: Advance Directives, Hospice & More
Health & Wellness

End-of-Life Planning: Advance Directives, Hospice & More

November 10, 2022

End-of-life planning. Not easy to talk about, but important to do. What are advance directives? What is palliative care and/or hospice care? How can I decide about organ donation? Read our blog to learn more.

What is an advance healthcare directive, and should I have one?

An advance healthcare directive is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself. An advance directive guides your healthcare team and loved ones when they need to make these decisions or it determines who will make healthcare decisions for you when you can't.

These healthcare directives are useful in the event you experience a life-threatening emergency and can’t speak for yourself. They also help avoid family disagreements or delays in care. It can be overwhelming to be asked to make healthcare decisions for someone else; it is even more difficult if you do not have written or verbal guidance. Advance healthcare directives only apply to healthcare decisions and do not affect financial or money matters.

A copy of your healthcare directive should be given to your healthcare system, physician’s office and any other healthcare providers such as your nursing facility, hospice or home health agency. In addition, you may want to give originals or copies of your healthcare directive to other persons, such as close family members and your attorney, if you have one.

For more informtion, please visit Care Planning & Directives or call 701.780.5300 with questions.

What is palliative care and how is it beneficial?

A couple hugging.

The goal of palliative care is providing relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness. Palliative care aims to ensure the best possible quality of life for people facing advanced chronic and life-threatening illness. It is provided alongside all other appropriate curative treatments.

Palliative care includes managing of pain and physical symptoms, adjusting the care plan around the patient and providing support for emotional suffering. A serious illness may be defined as a disease or condition with a high risk of death or one that negatively affects a person’s quality of life or ability to perform daily tasks. It may cause symptoms or have treatments that affect daily life and lead to caregiver stress. Examples of serious illnesses include dementia, cancer, heart failure and chronic obstructive lung disease.

Studies have shown that palliative care can have many benefits for both patients and their families: patients have fewer symptoms, greater emotional support for all, and increased patient and family satisfaction.

When a patient decides to forgo treatment for their serious illness or is near the end of life, they may decide to enter hospice care (see below).

For more information about palliative care, please call 701.780.5400.

What is hospice care, and should I include it in my advance care planning?

Hospice care is a service for people with serious illnesses who choose not to undergo (or discontinue) treatment to cure or control their illness. People may choose to enroll in hospice care if the treatment is unlikely to be effective or if continuing it has become too burdensome. Hospice aims to provide comfort and peace, improving quality of life for the person nearing death. It also helps family members cope with their loved one’s illness, including supporting the family after the person dies with bereavement care (dealing with grief).

For more information, please talk to your primary care provider regarding hospice services.

Why does organ donation matter?

Right now, more than 100,000 people in the United States are on organ transplant waiting lists. Each day, 17 people die waiting. Last year, more than 39,000 transplants were completed, the second highest ever, even with the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the numbers tell the story; the need for organ donations is far greater than the supply.

Anyone can register to be an organ donor. Don’t assume you wouldn’t be able to give an organ because of your age or health status. There have been successful transplants in which both the donor and the recipient were in their 70s. Even if you have a chronic condition, experts will make the call about what is possible.

Living donors start the process with a questionnaire and a conversation with a donor coordinator, who can help determine if you are a good candidate.

For more information, please visit LifeSource: Saving Lives Through Organ, Eye & Tissue Donation

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