Monday, November 30, 2009

End of life care

End of life, or palliative, care is a touchy subject. And I seem to be on a roll with touchy subjects lately like suicide and "unsexy" health threats, so let's keep rolling with this one!

An organization called Engage with Grace is encouraging families to discuss end of life care during this holiday season. Engage with Grace has a one-slide quiz to help get the conversation started to discuss family members' wishes at the end of their lives. This NPR blog discusses this initiative a bit more. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine has more information as well.

It can be incredibly difficult to think about these issues inside one's own head, much less with one's family. Death is a hard subject, and no one enjoys thinking about it. But a little conversation ahead of time can prepare your loved ones for when the time comes. This article in the NYTimes discusses palliative care physicians and their role in the conversation. This video shows more of what is in this article.
".. As an aging population wrangles with how to gracefully face the certainty of death, the moral and economic questions presented by palliative care are unavoidable: How much do we want, and need, to know about the inevitable? Is the withholding of heroic treatment a blessing, a rationing of medical care or a step toward euthanasia?"
The article discusses, amongst other things, the growing subspecialty of palliative care and its importance with an aging population. It notes that an enormous amount of a person's healthcare spending is spent during the last 6 months to 2 years of one's life, and much of the time this is Medicare and/or Medicaid spending.

But, most importantly, it's vital to be comfortable with the concept of end of life care. It is a subject that this country is scared to talk about, but one that is incredibly crucial. It's not about "death panels" but rather about caring for your loved ones at the end of their inevitably finite lives. There is honor in dying with dignity and grace and in discussing one's wishes to do so.

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