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Featured Guest Blogger: Susan R. Dolan RN, JD

Susan R. Dolan RN, JD Susan R. Dolan RN, JD

You plan for weddings, births, and vacations, in order to have the best experiences possible. Similarly, the best way to plan for a good death, with end-of-life care that honors your life and wishes, is to gather information ahead of time, determine and document your wants and needs, and discuss your wishes with those closest to you.

To make decisions about your end-of-life care requires information and clear communication, from fact-finding and gathering advice from experts, to discussing your wishes with loved ones. The better you understand your options, the more prepared you become—the more you and your loved ones will benefit.

Planning for a good death: Gather information ahead of time, Determine and document your wants and needs, Discuss your wishes with those closest to you

You can start with a simple checklist:

  • Take the initiative to open conversations about your end-of-life choices with your loved ones, health care agents (the person you have appointed in your power of attorney to make decisions on your behalf), doctor, and lawyer.
  • If you have a serious health issue, take someone with you when you visit your doctor. Write down questions in advance and take notes at the doctor’s visit.
  • If you have questions about end-of-life care, call a local hospice for a free consultation.
  • Make sure everyone understands your wishes. Take a copy of your advance directive (power of attorney for healthcare/living will) with you whenever you are admitted to a healthcare facility. Check with your doctor to make sure a copy of it is in your medical record.
  • If you become seriously ill, ask the doctor to explain your diagnosis, treatment options (including benefits and burdens), and expected outcomes. Make sure the doctor understands your goals for care. If you meet resistance, seek a second opinion.
  • If you become hospitalized and you have questions about whether to initiative a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order, ask to consult with a member of the palliative care or hospice team. If you have a DNR and live at home, display it in a prominent place, such as on front of your refrigerator, for easy access—especially if paramedics are called to your home.

Information and communication are crucial to excellent planning at any stage of life. For end of life care, these two keys can make the difference in living—and dying—well. Take the time to plan and prepare now.

About the Author

Susan R. Dolan RN, JD, is cofounder and executive director of Angels Grace Hospice located in Bolingbrook, Illinois and coauthor of The End of Life Advisor: Personal, Legal and Medical Considerations for a Peaceful, Dignified Death, a winner of the 2009 American Journal of Nursing Award. See www.angelsgracehospice.com.