End of Life Options
We devote a lot of time to here discussing your funeral options, your burial insurance options, your cremation options, and how to plan the best memorial service. However, the months and weeks leading up to death are even more important. These are the final moments to enjoy what life has to offer; to spend whatever time you have left with those you love and who bring you comfort.
The goal of end of life care is not to prolong your life, but to make it as comfortable and meaningful as possible. Although this is generally a goal everyone shares, each state has its own rules regarding what you can and cannot do to alleviate suffering. Always check what the options are where you live before you make plans or sign any documents.
- Hospice: Hospice is one of the most common and popular choices when it comes to planning end of life care. These organizations can either provide professional support in your home or at a facility where the focus is on comfort, care, and compassion. No efforts are made to “cure” a person at this point; merely to ease their passing in a way that is humane.
- DNR: A DNR order (short for Do Not Resuscitate) is a medical order that tells healthcare providers that you do not want medical intervention in the event of a medical emergency or the advent of death. This is legal in all states and gives you the right to deny efforts to prolong life unnecessarily. A similar order is POLST (Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment). This allows you to dictate which measures will be taken and when…and all under the guidance of a qualified medical professional.
- VSED: A less common order is known as VSED, or Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking. This falls under the DNR federal rules, which means that an able-bodied adult can request no nutrition or fluids to be administered during their last days. This is done under the guidance of a doctor and/or hospice as part of the dying process.
- Palliative Sedation: Sedation (that is, drugs that are administered to put you to “sleep” or render you unconscious until death occurs) is not commonly an option during end of life care, but it does exist. It is almost always done to prevent extreme suffering caused by a terminal illness. Not all medical facilities are willing to offer this, and not many insurance companies will cover it, so always check with your providers.
- Medically-Assisted Death: Also called “aid in dying,” this option is not available everywhere. Currently, eight states (Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia) have legalized this choice. In this process, a physician will prescribe medication that will result in the end of life, at which point the patient must consciously and willingly take it on their own.
One thing to note about most of these choices is that they require medical oversight, which means you will be in a hospital, hospice, nursing home, or other care facility. If you would prefer to do this at home, you should talk with your doctor about your options.
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