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End of Life Decisions

At the end of life, each of us travels a different path. There may be a sudden death or a lingering and gradual failure of health. In some cases the body may deteriorate while the mind stays alert while in other instances physical strength remains and cognitive losses take a huge toll. Regardless, death is inevitable and each loss is personally felt by those close to the demised.

End-of-life care is the term used to describe the support and medical care given during the time surrounding death. This is not necessarily the final moments when breathing finally stops or the heart fails as an older person is often living, and dying, with one or more chronic illnesses and needs a lot of care for days, weeks, and sometimes even months. Many families are left with the stress and heartache of trying to agree on the best way to care for a terminally-ill loved one who is unable to make his wishes known.

Taking time to consider your end-of-life choices today can improve your future quality of life and ease the burden on your family. To ensure your future medical care will reflect your own values and desires, take the time to discuss your wishes with loved ones and prepare an Advance Directive for Health Care (Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney).

Writing down your wishes about end of life treatment you do or don't want to receive and naming someone you trust to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so can prevent these matters from being handled by those who know very little about what you would prefer. Doctors that you do not know or a judge can end up making health care decisions for you if you do not plan properly.

Here are some end of life decisions you should consider:

     1. Artificial hydration and nutrition;

     2. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR);

     3. Advanced cancer;

     4. Feeding tubes and ventilator;

     5. Hospice care;

     6. When medical therapies, procedures and equipment should be withheld or withdrawn;

     7. Quality vs quantity of life.