It’s not the easiest topic to talk about, whether you are young or old, but conversations about death need to happen — and sooner rather than later.
Benjamin Jacobs, director of operations for Faith Hospice, said conversations about end-of-life planning reduce confusion during a trying time and provide clarity about what a person would like to have happen at the end of their life.
“Hospice care is a service for folks who are very near to the end of life,” he said. “That is the primary people we end up working with and serving, and it is surprising how often we are working with families or a patient who has not done any end-of-life planning. There can be some major drawbacks to that, especially if you are wanting that comfort care at the end of life. In the state of Michigan, if you don’t have a patient advocate, which I refer to as a power of attorney for health care, and you are not your own decision-maker anymore — maybe someone is incapacitated, or they are unable to make a decision — that can really delay receiving some health services, including hospice care, if you have not designated a patient advocate to sign on your behalf.”
End-of-life planning also includes a power of attorney for finances, a living will and funeral planning. It does not include estate planning or the traditional sense of a will because, according Jacobs, those elements address matters after someone dies.
Faith Hospice does provide assistance with end-of-life planning to patients with a terminal illness who have six months or less to live.
Some of Faith Hospice’s patients receive inpatient care at its Trillium Woods facility, while others receive at-home care either at their private homes, residential homes, assistant living or nursing homes by Faith Hospice employees. Their employees include physicians, nurses, medical social workers, chaplains certified nursing assistants and volunteers.
Jacobs said typically what Faith’s social workers do is help families with getting some advance directives in place.
“We help them designate a decision-maker if they haven’t already and start talking about other end-of-life planning topics that may not have been addressed yet,” he said. “They help to facilitate discussions and include the patient and their family in on those discussions so that we can help to get a plan in place.
“This is uncomfortable to talk about for most people and I think that is a big challenge. No one likes to think about death, let alone talk to others about it, so I think that is one of the challenges for people who, despite an increase in health care providers urging people to plan ahead of time, some people continue to put it off because it is uncomfortable. It is an uncomfortable topic to address but it should be talked about and planned for.”