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Kent residents can plan for a quality end-of-life experience

Kent residents may not be surprised by the results of a survey of terminally ill cancer patients that sought to determine which factors most affected a person's perception of the quality of end-of-life experiences. The most important factors identified by study participants were to avoid dying in a hospital, to avoid extreme life-sustaining procedures and to be treated with respect by their doctors. While a patient may have little ability to change a doctor's bedside manners, long term care planning can help make sure that end-of-life wishes are heard and met.

The study indicates that matters of comfort and spirituality rank high among the factors that can bring terminally ill patients a sense of peace during their last days. While a good relationship between patients and healthcare providers certainly affects a patient's sense of comfort and self-worth, the path toward a quality end-of-life experience needs to begin with a conversation among loved ones. When family members understand a person's wishes, those wishes can be formalized and communicated to healthcare providers through legal documents like a living will, healthcare directives and directives to physicians.

Advance directives serve the important function of instructing healthcare providers as to the lengths to which they should go in an attempt to prolong a patient's life. Advance directives can also authorize a trusted person familiar with the patient's wishes to make healthcare decisions if the patient is unable to communicate.

With assistance from an experienced estate planning professional, preparing advance directives need not be overly time consuming or expensive. For many, the most difficult step may be summoning the courage to address difficult end-of-life choices and to communicate wishes to loved ones. As this recent study shows, the reward for having the courage to get serious about long term care planning may be an invaluable sense of peace at the end of one's days.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "What Makes the End-of-Life Experience Peaceful?," Jennifer Goodwin, July 9, 2012

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