Wish List of the Terminally Ill
The dying process has been extended in American society due to medical technology and the management of pneumonia, renal failure, and other infections. Nearly three out of every four people who die in America are 65 years and older. Most die in hospitals or nursing homes. .
In a recent comprehensive study conducted by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, researchers interviewed terminally ill patients, their doctors, social workers, hospice volunteers, chaplains, and family members. The researchers found six elements that are integral to creating a positive end-of-life experience:
- Preventing pain was the most important to patients. Many people feared dying in pain more than dying itself. Doctors can be very helpful, managing pain and reassuring both patients and their families that pain can be controlled.
- Patients want to be involved in making decisions regarding their treatment. Gone are the hush-hush days of "saving" the patient from the truth. Letting the patient's desires direct decision-making relieves families of guilt should the patient desire less treatment, and prevents conflicts and debates among family members. What Mom or Dad wants becomes the unifying rallying point.
- Patients and families need to know what to expect from the fatal condition and the treatment. This knowledge helps them better prepare for events, symptoms, and treatment outcomes surrounding the impending death.
- Patients and families search for meaningfulness to their lives and their relationship with each other at the end of life. They'll seek the solace of faith, review their lives, resolve conflicts, spend time with family and friends, and say goodbye.
- Patients find satisfaction in contributing to the well-being of others. They find peace in helping their loved ones come to terms with their dying and helping loved ones let go. They also find it satisfying to leave behind the means to care for their loved one's physical and financial needs.
- Patients do not want to be seen as a "disease" or a "case," but as a unique, whole person.
From this research and many other similar studies, it is clear that honest, compassionate communication--no matter how painful the topic--is crucial to a "good death."
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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