Moving the Conversation Forward: End-of-Life Care

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Vice President, Strategy, McKesson
Moving the Conversation Forward on End-of-Life Care

We all know instinctively that death is the natural end to every living being, but many adults aren’t taking steps to have critical end-of-life care discussions with loved ones and friends.

Following up to a landmark report I wrote about last year, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released a 30-second public service announcement and website on related to “Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life.”

The main thrust of the campaign is to encourage adults who have given little or no thought to the care they would like to receive when seriously ill or near the end of life to do so. IOM estimates that nearly a quarter of U.S. adults fall into this category.

IOM provides a range of resources to help caregivers and patients, including a four-page summary of the report and a separate document with its key findings. There is also a downloadable PDF of an attractive poster describing palliative care and hospice care and a link to a five-question quiz about end-of-life care. IOM provides a number of links to related resources from other groups, including Aging with Dignity and The Conversation Project.

The website has a useful section where patients can find information to help them understand the various terms associated with advance care planning, such as durable power of attorney, medical orders for life-sustaining treatment and DNR orders.

Perhaps most importantly for home care agencies, the IOM report outlines five recommendations that are highly relevant to our organizations. For example, the report recommends that all people with advanced serious illness should have access to skilled palliative care or hospice care settings. Similarly, it recommends all clinicians across all disciplines who care for people with advanced serious illness should be competent in basic palliative care.

The authors write that broad improvements to end-of-life care are within reach and that “improving the quality of patient/family services could not only enhance quality of life during this period, but also contribute to a more sustainable healthcare system.”

These are critical discussions that everyone should have, not only with patients, but also among ourselves.

Want to discover more ways to extend the reach of your hospice services? Download the e-book, “Provide Care to More Hospice Patients.”

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