If you want to make End-of-Life planning a part of your life but don’t know where to start, a new report from the Institute of Medicine provides a blueprint for how to do it.
The goal of the new report is to help “normalize the Advanced Care Planning process by starting it early.” One way to do this is to build End-of-Life conversations into major life milestones so a person continues to revisit the topic as they age.
Here are some milestones where checking in with your End-of-Life plan would not only be appropriate, but useful.
- Getting Drivers License – Parents should have their first End-of-Life conversation with their child when they get their driver’s license at 16. Discuss what it means to be an organ donor and let your child decide if it’s right for them.
- Becoming an Adult – Have a follow-up conversation with your child when they become an adult at 18. Let them know it’s time for them to take responsibility for their own End-of-Life plan
- Getting Married or Having Children – A key End-of-Life conversation should take place when you get married or have children. This is a good time to write your Living Will
- Midlife Conversation – Have your next conversation when you turn 40 and be sure to put your decisions in writing if you haven’t already
- Chronic Illness or Genetic Conditions – An End-of-Life conversation should occur at the diagnosis of any chronic illnesses or genetic condition
- Disease Diagnosis or Accident – Check in with your End-of-Life plan if you are diagnosed with a disease or in a serious accident
- Turning Points – Conversations should occur during various turning points of a disease when spiritual counseling might be offered
- Final Year of Life – The last End-of-Life conversation happens in the final year of expected life
In addition to the Advanced Care Planning blueprint, the Institute of Medicine also came back with findings about the state of the American healthcare system. Despite efforts in the past decade to improve access to hospice and palliative care, the report identified gaps in the following areas:
• A shortage of doctors proficient in palliative care
• A reluctance among healthcare providers to have direct and honest conversations about End-of-Life
• Inadequate financial and organizational support for the needs of ailing and dying patients
The Institute of Medicine believes our healthcare system “can’t afford to wait” to improve the infrastructure for the aging, “especially as the number of elderly Americans continues to grow with the aging of the Baby Boom generation,” the report states.
“At a time when public leaders hesitate to speak on the subject, it is incumbent on others to assess what can be done to make those final days better, and promote a public discourse,” writes Dr. Victor Dzau and Dr. Harvey Fineberg, the current and former presidents of the Institute of Medicine in the report’s forward.
Read the story here.