EOL Conversations Allow for Better Palliative Care

As more attention is paid to providing a better end-of-life (EOL) experience for patients rather than extending life by all means possible, the conversations between caregivers, physicians and families become increasingly important.  A recent review and analysis of EOL conversations and care outcomes found that the important discussions between health care professionals and loved ones is associated with improved palliative care. 

When health care professionals discuss approaching end-of-life with families, helping them to make informed decisions about life-sustaining treatment and communicate the wishes to nursing home staff, the care given to elderly loved-ones can be improved to focus on comfort and pain relief.   Although open discussions about EOL have not been the norm, in recent years there has been a shift in care, focusing on providing a better death rather than simply extending life. 

It’s important to have conversations early with loved ones about their preferences should they become very ill or injured; when families are able to talk openly about EOL wishes, some of the stress during a time of crisis can be lessened and the focus can be on providing comfort care. By respected the dying person’s wishes and providing care that relieves suffering and improves remaining quality of life, elderly adults are able to have a more peaceful death. 

According to the National Institute on Aging, caregiving for patients at the EOL can focus on physical comfort, mental and emotional needs, spiritual needs and the practical tasks that may include everything from household chores to making phone calls to update friends and family.  Patients are often comforted to know that their affairs are in order and their wishes are being honored.