This coming Wednesday April 27th, Olympic Medical Center will host a workshop of end of life care and decision making in the Linkletter Room, 939 Caroline St., Port Angeles from 1-4pm.
Physicians and hospice workers will be present during the event to connect with patients and their families in order to best assist the families in starting a conversation about end of life care. This can be a very difficult to have between an adult son/daughter and their elderly parents, or a conversation between elderly spouses. However difficult a conversation about one’s end of life wishes may be, forgoing the opportunity to discuss these matters with loved ones can lead to many hard choices and the sensation of missing out on the final chances to connect with a terminal family member in a meaningful way.
Patients who have yet to draft important legal documents (such as a will, living will, durable power of attorney, and do not resuscitate order) can leave their family members in the terrible position of having to guess what the wishes of a recently departed family member might have been. Families who haven’t prepared these documents at the time of death are hit with a “double whammy” – dealing with the grief of a recently passed loved one and scrambling around with lawyers and estate professionals to make all the necessary arrangements for the deceased. It’s hard enough to mourn the loss of a parent or spouse, but having to do so while simultaneously sifting through legal issues can make this difficult time significantly worse for the family of the departed.
Discussing end of life care goals is vitally important at the family level, but it is also important for our healthcare system as a whole. Medical expenditures in the final year of life are on average 5 times greater than medical expenditures in nonterminal years ($7.3K vs $37.3K)Hoover D, et. al, so our society is spending a great deal of resources on medical care for patients in the final year of their lives. Sometimes these expenditures are desired by patients and family members alike who wish to extend the amount of time they have left with an ailing loved one. In other instances, a patient may desire less end of life care, or less invasive care like hospice.
No one wants to find themselves in a position of having to guess what level and nature of care a family member might want. Estate planning and legal issues are important, but they are just a small piece of end of life planning. There are an infinite number of topics that a family facing a terminal illness may want to discuss beyond wills and insurance. The amount of medical care, and the nature of the care that a terminal patient may desire can be different than that of other family members. The goal of this workshop at Olympic Medical Center next Wednesday is to give families the tools to begin to have these difficult conversations.