As an End of Life Doula, I am always hopeful that people think about the last months and days of life, years before they die. However my experience is that the contrary is true. Typically people deal with end of life when they come face to face with the inevitable and many times after it is too late to alter the trajectory of their last days. 

It is vital to have the difficult and necessary conversations as we approach this critical stage of life. Putting a plan in place before needed can help you and your loved ones make the most of life and bring joy to time spent together.

In this post, I will discuss what end of life care entails and how to choose an approach that is right for you and your loved ones. Read on for everything you need to know to make informed decisions regarding you or a loved one’s care. 

What Is End of Life Care? 

In its most basic sense, this is the care provided in the final stage of life. There comes a time when the constant pursuit of another medical treatment or a cure becomes unsustainable. At this point, there is a shift to providing the care and support people need to face their end of life. Depending on the nature of a person’s condition, this may be days, weeks, months, or even years prior to death. In addition to providing supportive care and assistance with daily activities, end of life may also involve settling financial and legal matters. For most families, this can be an incredibly challenging time. Having a plan in place can minimize that stress and turmoil that occur when emotions are running high and time is limited.

Goals of End of Life Care 

 It is important to understand the wishes of the individual needing care. Each person’s goals for the end of life are very personal and can vary widely but the desire to remain as comfortable as possible is typical for most people. This can include managing pain, addressing symptoms, and minimizing harmful side effects from medications. Often, a person facing the end wants to make the most of the time they have left surrounded by beloved friends and family. They prefer spending time in familiar places rather than away from home with strangers undergoing medical treatments that may have a minimal or even negative impact on life. This is the part that requires difficult conversations. Ask probing questions to understand what your loved one wants. 

This is the time to set aside any disagreements and differences for the sake of helping a loved one make peace before their death. It gives caregivers a chance to make the mental shift from trying to keep the person alive to accepting that the end is near. When individuals approach this situation with acceptance rather than fear and worry, it is possible to enjoy and cherish the time left with the people they care most about. 

When Is It Time for End of Life Care? 

The right time for end of life care will vary from person to person, but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind to guide your decision: 

  • Overall Health – As your loved one approaches the final stages of life, you may notice that they are requiring emergency room visits and hospital stays more frequently. If they keep going back to the hospital for the same or similar reasons over and over again, it could be a sign that their condition is deteriorating. Frequent hospital stays that don’t seem to improve your loved one’s health can be demoralizing over time and can negatively impact their quality of life. This could be a sign that it is time to make a change in their care. 
  • Treatment Effectiveness – With many terminal illnesses, people eventually reach a point where treatment is no longer effective. It is also possible that the negative side effects of the treatment begin to overshadow the benefits. If you and your loved one are questioning whether or not to continue treatment, it is likely time to consider end of life care as an alternative. 
  • Individual Wishes – It is crucial to follow the wishes of the person requiring care. Your loved one may reach a point where they no longer want to go to the hospital or another care facility. Instead they prefer to live out their final days at home. This provides the opportunity to say goodbye to home, surrounded by treasured belongings, fond memories, and loved ones in a comfortable, familiar place. It is not about what is most convenient and palatable for others. It is about what is desired by the person facing the end of their life. 

In determining when it is time to begin end of life care, there is no single right answer. You’ll need to take all factors into consideration to decide what is best for your family. 

Benefits of End of Life Care 

Choosing end of life care verses continuation of intensive medical treatment has numerous benefits for both the dying person as well as their caregivers. End of life care enables someone to live out their final days on their own terms, whether this means staying at home in the company of loved ones under hospice care, or in a long-term care facility. The focus is on providing comfort and support for one who is facing the end of life. 

For caregivers, end of life care represents a transition from the hectic nature of ongoing appointments and treatment to saying goodbye to their loved one. Although this change can be difficult, it can provide the opportunity to slow down and hold space for the things that are truly important. It may also be the time when caregivers begin to experience the grief that comes with the loss of their loved one.

During this time, it is often beneficial to have professional caregivers assist with the daily care duties so that you can focus on the emotional aspects of the end of your loved one’s life. It is also the time to access specialists who can provide guidance on what to expect when someone dies. 

Picking the Best End of Life Care 

There is no single best end of life care option for everyone, so it is important to consider you and your loved one’s needs and preferences. Before you and your loved one face the end of life, take the time to have the discussions that will insure the vision you have can be realized. 

Get Your Loved One the High-Quality End of Life Care They Deserve 

For assistance with end of life care in Charlotte, Care Weavers is here for you. We can help you learn the options and plan for the end of life care that is right for you and your loved ones. We’ll work closely with you to understand your wishes so that we can assist in providing the care that is needed and deserved. Feel free to reach out to learn more about our services. Visit our resources page today to get started.