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Choosing the Right End-of-Life Care

Friday, October 1, 2021

There are two things every human has in common: life and death. Sometimes, the end comes unexpectedly like a thief in the night. However, there are times when you learn that a loved one only has weeks or months to live. Dealing with end-of-life care decisions isn’t easy.

First, find out what end-of-life care is and why it’s necessary. Then, go over some end-of-life care options available.

What Are the Goals of End-of-Life Care?

Comfort care, better known as end-of-life care, is a necessary part of the medical treatment for people who are dying. Its primary focus is maximizing quality of life in those remaining months in four key ways:

·   Making them feel more comfortable - People with terminal illnesses are often in a great deal of pain. Since there’s no cure for their disease, managing their pain is an essential component of end-of-life care.

·   Attending to their mental and emotional well-being - Illness is difficult on both patients and their families, which is why therapy is a big part of end-of-life care treatments. Dedicated hospice care facilities often have support groups for family members too.

·   Offering spiritual care - Prayer, meditation, or spirituality can be a source of comfort.

·       Taking care of everyday tasks - End-of-life CDPAP caregivers help patients with day-to-day tasks like grooming, dressing, and cooking.

Keep these four goals in mind when choosing an end-of-life care solution. Dying isn't easy on anyone, and everyone has different wishes about how they want to embrace the end. Your spouse might want to die at home surrounded by loved ones. On the other hand, a parent may choose to be in a hospital or long-term care community. You'll need to discuss this with your family so that you can make better decisions about a loved one's well-being.

Next, let's dive into some available options to help you make an informed choice.

What End-of-Life Care Options Are Available?

When the final days of a loved one are nearing, there are terminal care options available for you and your family to consider. To start, let’s look at the most common one: hospice care.

Hospice Care 

Hospice care is synonymous with end-of-life treatment. It is a service dedicated to people with six months or less to live. The nursing staff and caregivers are specifically trained to care for individuals with terminal illness. Hospice services may also run support groups where you and your family can talk to people in similar situations. This is particularly useful when you feel overwhelmed and in need of sympathy.

Hospice options typically include:

·       Inpatient facilities, which offer end-of-life care in hospitals, nursing homes, or hospice centers

·       Outpatient service providers that offer care at your home or another chosen location

Hospice care is best for those with terminal illness, such as late stages of cancer. It helps reduce pain and other symptoms so your loved one can be more comfortable in the final days.

If your loved one is insistent on being home surrounded by family, at-home hospice care is the right option. Yet, it requires added training for you and your family.

Overall, hospice service is highly specialized for end-of-life care, if your loved one has less than six months to live. If your loved one’s prognosis is longer than that, a palliative care center may be ideal.

Palliative Care

Many end-of-life options focus on managing chronic conditions that aren't curable. Palliative care does all of that. However, the approach makes it unique. Palliative care uses an integrated treatment plan to give medical care to people with complex illnesses. Some diseases, like Huntington's disease, dementia, and Parkinson's disease, need more than medications. In cases like these, different specialists create a custom treatment plan for the patient. The treatment spans medications, a tailored eating plan, relaxation techniques, and emotional and spiritual support.

Unlike hospice care, palliative care isn't only for end-of-life. You can opt for palliative care at any stage of an illness. It’s more focused on the management of pain and symptoms, while still making patients as comfortable as possible.

Because palliative care is grounded in its approach, it can be done anywhere. Your loved one can have palliative care at home, a nursing home, hospital, or hospice center.

If you have an illness that is progressing rapidly or has no cure, palliative care might be right for your family. For residents of New York State, the next end-of-life care program might be worth looking into.

CDPAP

Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program, or CDPAP, is a New York State Medicaid initiative for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities who need long-term home-based care. Through the program, you can hire and direct home care workers for your terminally ill loved one. What's remarkable is that friends and family members can supply home care through the program.

CDPAP aides receive payment directly from Medicaid. What's more, your sick loved one can get a friend or family member to manage tasks for them. Your loved one and the CDPAP aide will work together on a schedule that suits both of them.

Not everyone qualifies for CDPAP, though. Your loved one must meet three key criteria to be eligible for CDPAP:

·   Medicaid coverage

·   Has a need for home-based care

·   Has control of their care or has it directed by a representative

Now, let’s look at four types of care facilities that sometimes offer hospice services. Sometimes, nursing homes, group homes, assisted living communities and retirement villages provide end-of-life care to residents. However, since it’s not their primary service, you’ll need to ask the specific community about hospice care when doing your research.

Nursing Homes 

Nursing homes focus on providing continuous medical care. They are sometimes called skilled nursing facilities because they have trained professional nurses on site. Nursing homes provide a safe environment with 24-hour health care monitoring, and residents have their own room or shared rooms.

Nurses are always on duty, and residents receive medication management services. The staff also help with personal care like bathing, grooming, and eating when necessary.

If your loved one is in the end stages of an illness and requires constant medical supervision, a nursing home might be the right choice. You will have to ask nursing homes in your area if they have a hospice unit.

Next, let’s look into group homes, which are right between home-based care and nursing care facilities.

Group Homes

In some cases, a caregiver isn't enough to meet your loved one’s needs. That's when you might consider a group home. In group homes, people with care needs can receive professional support all day.

Residents have their own private rooms and access to shared communal areas, such as a kitchen, living room, laundry facilities, and outdoor spaces. Besides providing tailored care programs, group homes organize activities to stimulate patients. The caregivers also help with daily living tasks.

Assisted Living Facilities

Another option is an assisted living community, which offers a private residence with access to 24-hour care. Assisted living is ideal for patients who need help with everyday tasks. Your loved one will have their own apartment or a shared room. The community can help with bathing, dressing, cooking, and medication management.

If your loved one needs help to manage daily tasks but doesn't necessarily require full-time health care aid, assisted living is an ideal option. The facility also provides social activities by hosting events for the residents to enjoy dinners out or parties in shared areas.

Not all assisted living communities are equipped to handle end-of-life care. So, be sure to inquire if the facility you’re interested in will provide your loved one the care he or she needs.

The last option is similar to assisted living, but it is specific to seniors.

Retirement Communities

Retirement communities are available for older adults of various ages and abilities. These communities range from independent living to assisted living facilities. If your loved one has a terminal illness or dementia, they may be eligible for retirement communities that provide memory care and hospice care services.

What sets retirement communities apart is the specialized staff. Each community is designed with seniors in mind and all the staff has the training to work with the elderly. If you’re looking for end-of-life care for an older person, a retirement community with a hospice wing might be a good fit.

Choose the End-of-Life Care Plan Suited for Your Loved One

End-of-life care options depend on the level of medical help your loved one needs and their prognosis. Whatever you decide, have a conversation with your loved one to make the transition easier. As you search for the right solution, remember the four goals of end-of-life care.