No one wants to think about their own mortality, but unfortunately, many people facing a terminal illness have to make plans for their end-of-life care and final arrangements. The concept of dying a "good" death means you die in a manner in which you see fit, without unnecessary interventions or pain. Since everyone will have different preferences, it is important to make these decisions.
Dying On Your Terms
Now is the time to make decisions regarding medical interventions and where you would prefer to be in your final days. Ideally these choices should not only be expressed in written form, but also conveyed to your loved ones who are responsible for your care. This can reduce any conflicts between your final wishes and those of your loved ones. Many people would prefer to die at home and avoid any unnecessary procedures when they are terminally ill. Since this information is not always conveyed through an advanced directive, these people often spend their final days in hospital settings and receiving treatments that do little more than extend vital functions and possibly reduce the quality of their remaining days.
Be explicit about what is important to you, even down to the smallest detail. Most people who are terminal want significant pain control, even if it ultimately shortens their remaining time. You should also consider when/if any chronic disease medications and nourishment should be stopped. If you can no longer remain intubated on a respirator, should medical staff remove the device completely or replace it with a tracheotomy?
Determine Your Own Final Arrangements
You should also spend time pre-planning your funeral arrangements. This is another end-of-life situation that can provoke discord between family members if you are not explicit in what you want. There can be concerns about whether you wish to be cremated or buried and where your final resting place should be. If this information is not included in a will, it may be based on what your loved ones believe is what you want, which can be fueled by emotion rather than respecting your final wishes. With pre-arrangements, this eliminates any conflicts before they arise. If you pre-plan your arrangements, you may have the opportunity to lock-in prices and help keep your expenses within your budget.
Special considerations need to be made if you have no next of kin. These situations are handled differently based on locality. If at all possible, you should try to pre-pay for your arrangements to ensure your final expenses are met. It is best to find a lawyer who can handle your will and any remaining assets. Otherwise, your final resting place might be in a community grave or you might be cremated to reduce costs. In some cases, all assets, including life insurance, are liquidated and used to cover outstanding medical costs and costs associated with handling deceased individuals. Without having someone responsible for enacting your wishes, you may not get anything you want.
Make Use Of Palliative Care
When you are facing a terminal diagnosis, you are within your rights to request palliative care as soon as you want. Unfortunately, many doctors or hospitals do not offer palliative care to terminal patients until they have declined significantly. Although palliative care may not extend your life expectancy, it can help change the course of a terminal illness. One of the major benefits of using palliative care is that it is a patient and family centered medical specialty.
The goal is to manage symptoms and make patients as comfortable as possible and also provide them and their family comfort in a holistic manner. Those who engage in palliative treatment earlier in their disease process are more satisfied with the way their treatment is handled. Since palliative care is often thought of as synonymous with hospice care, many people do not engage in palliative treatment earlier. Agreeing to palliative care is not accepting a terminal diagnosis and rejecting palliative care will not lengthen your remaining time.
When you are diagnosed with a terminal condition, it is time to answer the tough questions. Being specific about your end-of-life care and final arrangements can help your family and medical professionals honor your wishes.