At VNA, we know that the end-of-life journey can be difficult to navigate, for yourself or for your loved one. That is why we believe it is important to not only care for our patients but to also be a resource for our community and for St. Louis.
Over the next six weeks, as a part of our new “Share and Prepare” series, we will be posting some guidelines and tools helpful in preparation for end-of-life care. We will discuss how to have conversations with family and health care providers, how to prepare written and legal documents outlining your care wishes, and how to choose a healthcare agent. We will also highlight certain VNA services that can be a part of this process.
This week on our blog is part 1: Talking with loved ones. Perhaps the most crucial component of preparation, we encourage all of our patients to consider taking this step first as a way to begin the process of outlying their end-of-care wishes and plans.
Talking with loved ones:
We know that end-of-life care decisions are very personal our patients, tied to what they believe and value. We also know these conversations can be hard to initiate. That is why we encourage our patients to have the discussion early. Talking about end-of-life wishes is incredibly important to help both our patients and their families navigate decisions whenever and if ever they are unable to advocate themselves.
To begin with, we encourage our patients to be both an honest communicator and a good listener. People cope with these conversations very differently so help them prepare by asking for permission beforehand and picking the right time and location to talk. These conversations are also for loved-ones’ wellbeing as well, particularly during difficult times. It is important that everyone taking part is open and gentle, taking time to listen to any and all concerns.
These conversations are also a good time for our patients to share their personal values, spiritual beliefs, and concerns. Taking time to discuss what gives life meaning and faith impacts one’s view of death is very beneficial. Furthermore, researching possible care options can also provide practical solutions and we encourage patients and their families to check out local resources. Finally, according to the NHPO, we help our patients and their families prepare for the the following three questions, which are common when discussing end-of-life care:
How important is it to you to be physically independent and stay in your own home?
Would you want your healthcare agent to take into account the effect your illness has on any other people?
Would you prefer to die at home if possible?
For those looking for more guidance, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has some wonderful resources focused on sharing end-of-life wishes with loved ones. Next week, as part 2 of our “Share and Prepare” series, we will be talking with our nurses about how their work at VNA helps patients during this end-of-life process and share how VNA’s home care services help our patients navigate such seasons with dignity.