Most people are afraid to think about dying and don’t want to think about it or talk about it. But for those with a terminal diagnosis, it’s more important than ever. They don’t want to upset loved ones, make demands or feel like a burden. Add in the fear and anxiety, and it’s easy to keep avoiding the conversation. Although it is difficult, it’s an extremely important conversation to have.
So what is end of life care?
End of life care generally refers to the support provided for people who are in the final months to one year of life.
It involves compassionate and personalised care and support planning centring around the needs and wishes of the dying person. It also includes the needs and support of the people closest to them.
It’s designed to improve the person’s quality of life and make sure all their wishes and priorities are met. It takes a holistic approach, looking at physical, mental and emotional needs as well as the needs of close friends and family who are supporting their dying loved one.
Planning ahead ensures they have the right medical team on hand and can spend their final hours in a place of their choosing, whether that be hospital, hospice or home.
An end of life care plan is based on the 5 priorities experts have identified for people in the final few days or hours of life. This can be found on the NHS website.
5 priorities for end of life care
- You should be seen by a doctor regularly and if they believe you will die very soon, they must explain this to you and the people close to you.
- The staff involved in your care should talk sensitively and honestly to you and the people close to you.
- You and the people close to you should be involved in decisions about how you are treated and cared for if this is what you want.
- The needs of your family and other people close to you should be met as far as possible.
- An individual plan of care should be agreed with you and delivered with compassion.
How to prepare for end of life care
Above all, end-of-life care is designed specifically for the person who needs it. They should be at the core of all the decision-making.
Communication is absolutely key to creating an end of life care plan that is meaningful to the person who is dying. This is their time and their wishes are what matter.
Having the difficult conversations well in advance is crucial to make sure you’re not making decisions based on guesswork. Talk to your loved one, and make sure you understand exactly what they need at this time. The more you know, the easier it will be to know that you have fulfilled a person’s wishes.
Considerations when making an end of life care plan
Some points you may wish to discuss with your loved one:
- Their health condition, the progression, likely symptoms and how those will be managed.
- The treatment and medication options there are. Will these alter nearer to death?
- Are there alternative therapies that may interest them?
- What is most important to your loved one. What are their priorities in the final months of their lives?
- Where do they want to spend their final days, care home, hospital or home? Somewhere else?
- Is organ donation something they wish to consider if they are able?
Also, remember, to keep revisiting decisions and it’s ok if they change their mind as an illness progresses.
Caring for someone at the end of life is taxing on everyone involved. No two deaths will ever be the same, but being prepared allows you to give the best support possible and peace of mind that you have done all you can.
Support for end of life care
If you or your loved one are planning to spend the final days at home we can help. Eximius offers a range of home support from domiciliary visits to 24-hour live-in care. We can take on much or all of the care needs to ease the pressure and allow families to spend as much precious time together as possible.
If you’d like to discuss your needs we’d love to hear from you.