3 Common Mistakes of Palliative Care Planning and How to Avoid Them

When it comes to end-of-life planning, timing is everything. A recent review article showed that patients who planned in advance for palliative and hospice care spent less time in the hospital, received fewer intensive treatments, and had a greater quality of life in their final days. How can a bit of planning make that much of a difference? Because communication is everything!

Advance care planning can be a gift you give yourself and your family. It is about doing what you can to ensure that your wishes and preferences are consistent with the health care treatment you might receive if you were unable to speak for yourself or make your own decisions.

Furthermore, planning ahead provides benefits to the surviving family members, allowing them to experience less stress, anxiety, and depression during the process. Not planning ahead for end-of-life care is only one of the mistakes you can make. There are others, too, and they can have a major impact on what your final days look like.

Even though it’s difficult to have these conversations, they are essential. If you don’t clarify your wishes, you could be leaving your health in other people’s hands. Below are three common mistakes in palliative care planning and how to avoid them.

1. Putting Things Off Until You’re Sick

As mentioned above, it’s not uncommon for people to delay end-of-life talks. In fact, only one-third of American adults have legally put their wishes in writing. So why do people wait to talk about palliative care and hospice care? Typically, it’s because they don’t feel a need to have these conversations until they are sick.

However, the best time to talk about palliative and hospice care is when you are healthy. You are able to make sound decisions about what you want and put them in writing. If your wishes change, you can update your health preferences. Nothing is set in stone. Consider reviewing your plan every five years or so to ensure it’s the right fit for your circumstances.

2. Not Sharing Your Wishes with Loved Ones

Whether or not you have a will or legal document with your end-of-life wishes, you should still communicate your wishes with your loved ones. If you’re sick and unable to talk, they will be making the decisions for you. This is hard on them and can potentially put them at risk for interventions they don’t want or need.

Be open and honest about your views on palliative care and hospice care. This will avoid family conflict later on and create less anxiety and uncertainty for your loved ones. It’s best to have a conversation with everyone at the same time, as this ensures everyone hears the same information and it stays consistent.

3. Not Naming a Power of Attorney for Health Care

You should name a power of attorney for both your finances and your health care. In New Jersey, this person is referred to as a New Jersey medical power of attorney, and they are able to make healthcare decisions for you. This individual should be someone you trust to handle this responsibility.

Sometimes, there are pressures from the medical system, as well as pressure from other relatives. Your medical POA should understand palliative and hospice care and how it fits into the overall treatment plan. Unlike hospice care, with palliative care, you CAN continue curative treatments.

Care, Support, and Compassion from VNA Health Group

VNA Health Group offers palliative and hospice care for serious and complex illnesses. We are happy to speak to you or your family members about this type of care and how it can benefit you. Palliative care includes comfort care, symptom management, coordination of care, and end-of-life planning. Hospice care is for patients facing a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less who are not seeking curative treatment. Contact our team today to start this important conversation.


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