With medical advances helping to increase the average life expectancy and making it possible to artificially extend the lives of accident victims and the terminally ill, more and more Americans, their families and physicians are addressing the myriad of issues surrounding end-of-life care and support.
"The end of life is a time that requires a comprehensive and hands-on type of medical care that takes into account all facets of the final stages of life for both patients and their families," says James Zini, DO. "For osteopathic physicians, that includes caring for the human spirit, which is one of the four tenets of the osteopathic philosophy."
Topics which should be addressed—not just by older or seriously ill people, but by younger adults who wish to be prepared in case of sudden or unexpected accidents or serous illness—include:
Advance directives - Legal written documents that instruct a doctor in the type of medical treatment and care a person does or does not want if they reach the point where they can no longer speak for themselves.
Pain management - Effectively assessing, managing and treating the physical pain associated with terminal illness.
Selecting care programs - For nearly all terminally ill patients, the time comes when curing the illness is no longer a viable alternative. At that point, they must decide with their families if they are ready for palliative care, which provides comfort and maintains the highest possible quality of life for as long as life remains.
Financial considerations - Experts recommend that families consult with their primary care physicians, insurance carrier, lawyer, financial planner, accountant, appropriate governmental agencies and other experts to examine health care coverage and benefits that may be available.
Organ donation - The demand for donated organs far out numbers the supply. Because there are more that 25 different transplantable organs and tissues, each donor can potentially save and enhance the lives of up to 50 people.
"Compassionate support and understanding can help make a person’s final journey as comfortable, functional and dignified as possible," says Dr. Zini.
Information provided by North American Precis Syndicate, Inc.