End of Life Care: What You Need to Know About Your Options

While the thought may be uncomfortable, death is a reality that we all must consider and plan for. Whether it is your own passing or preparing for that of a loved one, taking the proper steps to have a plan in place can make the situation easier to bear once it occurs. This is why understanding your options for end of life care is of great importance. You may be wondering the following:

  • What is end of life care?
  • What options do I have?
  • How do I document it?
  • How do I talk about it?

While the grief of your passing for your family members, or your own grief due to the passing of a loved one, is never easy to deal with, understanding end of life care does not have to be difficult.

What is End of Life Care?

While similar to palliative care in some ways, end of life care is specifically for individuals who are nearing death (typically with weeks to a few months to live). End of life care focuses on providing symptom management to the patient in various ways, whether that is providing medical treatment as appropriate and/or providing emotional support to the individual in their final days.

What Options Do I Have?

End of life care can take place in numerous different settings. While ultimately not everyone has a choice on where to receive end of life care, those who know their final days are approaching may be able to choose the setting that is most comfortable for them.

The three most common places for individuals to receive end of life care are hospitals, care facilities and at home.

End of Life Care in Hospitals

In a hospital setting, the individual will have access to a care team consisting of doctors and other medical professionals who best understand their needs. Hospitals may also have hospice and palliative care teams who can assist the dying individual in their final days.

End of Life Care in a Care Facility

Care facilities can include nursing homes or other long-term facilities. In such facilities, an individual will receive care from a nursing staff, with doctors available for patients who require them.

In some instances, individuals may already be living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility and opt to stay there to receive end of life care.

End of Life Care at Home

Many people who are aware that they do not have much longer to live prefer the comfort of their own home in their final days. This option allows for the dying individual to spend their remaining time in a private environment, often receiving care from family members, friends and/or a professional caregiver. Despite being at home, it is still very important to make sure the dying individual’s health needs are taken care of (i.e. consulting with doctors).

How Do I Document It?

There are numerous documents that are associated with end of life care and ensuring that the dying individual’s needs and desires for their care are met. These documents include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Do Not Resuscitate
  • Organ Donor Card

Durable Power of Attorney: What is it?

Durable Power of Attorney documents authorize another individual to act on your behalf should you become no longer able to make your own decisions. This applies to a person’s non-medical related affairs, such as banking and business decisions.

Living Will: What is it?

A Living Will is a document that declares intentions for your medical care, such as if you want to remain on life support should you require it. The Living Will is often combined with the Medical Power of Attorney, which authorizes another individual to make your medical decisions if you are unable to do so. The combination of these two documents is referred to as an Advanced Healthcare Directive.

Do Not Resuscitate Order: What is it?

A Do Not Resuscitate order is a document that instructs medical professionals not to perform CPR should your heart stop beating.

Organ Donor Card: What is it?

An Organ Donor card declares your wishes to have your organs donated following your death.

How Do I Talk About It?

While difficult, it is very important to have discussions with your loved ones regarding your plans for end of life care. It is also important that you are honest and clearly state your intentions so that there is no confusion when the time comes.

It is critical that you have a plan in place for your final days and after you pass. For any estate planning matters, contact us today.

About the Author

Alyssa Marie Monteleon, Esq.

Alyssa Marie Monteleon is an elder law and estate planning attorney at the Monteleon Law Group, PLLC with offices in New York and Virginia. For more information, please visit www.monteleonlaw.com or call (914) 840-2529.

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