Monday, August 10, 2009

Preparing for the End of Life: Doing What We Say

An eldercare consultant, I often witness the contradictions many people make regarding end-of-life preparation. Therefore, it was no surprise when I read the results of the “South Dakota’s Dying to Know” statewide survey about end-of-life concerns. South Dakota surveyors wanted to gain understanding of attitudes, advance planning, knowledge, and preferences residents had about end-of-life issues. Surveys were sent to 10,204 randomly selected households. These are the results:

1) Most respondents said preparation for the end of life was very important, yet far fewer had actually taken steps to ensure their end-of-life wishes would be known or honored.

2) Most people did not want artificial hydration/nutrition at the end of their lives, preferred to die at home, and harbored misconceptions about pain; yet, most had not engaged in conversations with their physician, minister, or lawyer about these issues.

3) While some adults were unfamiliar with hospice care, when provided with a definition, a majority indicated that they would want hospice care if they were dying and preferably in their own homes.

Doing what we say we want is an ongoing problem when it comes to end-of-life preparation. Like most people, many South Dakotans have end-of-life preferences that they have taken no actions to implement. These results reinforce the continued urgency for patient conversations initiated by doctors and other healthcare workers, not only with the elderly who are near the end of their lives, but with all patients. More discussions by family and community members are also needed to bridge that long-standing gap between what we say and what we do.

You can read more here about"South Dakota's Dying to Know" statewide survey.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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