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Starting the Conversation

​Talking about the impending death of a loved one is naturally a tough conversation. Talking about one's death can be even more difficult. 

 

The current medical system in the United States mainly focuses on saving and prolonging life. Advancements in curative care lead patients and families to be reluctant in accepting when curative care has diminishing returns.

People avoid discussing the topic of death for many reasons: A fear of death, guilt, denial, upsetting loved ones, inner conflict, or even a fear of letting loved ones down. Some people also believe talking about death may bring it about. 

 

One of the objectives of palliative care is to begin conversations about goals for end-of-life care. This task is a difficult one because people have a natural inclination not to have these conversations. Avoiding discussions about death prevents meaningful discussions regarding advance directives.

 An advance directive would communicate to health care providers whether one would like to be placed on a ventilator.  

An example of what an advance directive looks like

An advance directive is a medical document that informs healthcare providers the extent to which a patient will accept care.

An advance directive also communicates to families the medical wishes of a loved one. These wishes are essential when one is unable to express one's desired directives of care.  One advantage of an advance directive is a declaration of a health care surrogate.

 

A health care surrogate is in charge of making medical decisions for a patient when a patient is unable to do so. Not having an advance directive completed can leave a health care surrogate in a tough decision-making situation. However, having an advance directive can help guide health care surrogates in making care decisions.  

Another critical part of the discussion of death is determining what kind of care is available. Doctors' diagnoses determine care options. If a patient has a life expectancy of six months or less, they qualify for hospice care. Palliative care is for patients who have a life-limiting illness but do not meet a six-month life expectancy qualification.

Palliative Care is care geared toward maximizing quality of life, but also concurrently treating disease symptoms.  

Hospice Care is specifically designated for those who have been given a life expectancy of six months or less and focuses on pain management, and relief from suffering. 

There are areas of overlap between the two disciplines. Both attempt to support patients emotionally, physically, and spiritually, while also focusing on patients' quality of life. The confusion between the two types of care stems from whether or not they receive curative care concurrently.

 

Palliative care focuses on comfort while treating patients’ disease symptoms. With hospice care, curative treatment ceases and the focus of care changes. The main goal of hospice care is to relieve pain and suffering.

 

​​​​​​Without a proper discussion of death and the possibilities of care, the passing of a loved one can be jarring for families. Tools like palliative and hospice care, as well as advance directives, are available to patients to ease the end-life-process. For more information about advance directives and end-of-life care options visit: Caring Info 

Map of Hospice and Palliative Care Providers in Florida 

Click the "view larger map" icon for a detailed map of providers in a specific area