Advance Care Planning for Seniors

Feb 27th, 2010 | By | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

A couple of articles in the news this past week suggest the need to provide information to our readers about Advance Care Planning, Palliative Care and the interface with Hospice.

Caring Connections is a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, a national consumer and community engagement initiative to improve care at the end of life.  This professional organization provides a variety of resources to the public about end of life planning. 

One of their articles addresses Advance Care Planning, suggesting it is like a roadmap.  You wouldn’t think of traveling in your vehicle to an unfamiliar destination without a roadmap.  NHPCO suggests a roadmap is equally helpful in planning for end of life choices:

  • Map Your Journey:  create a living will to chart the course for your family/friends about how you want medical decisions made should you not be able to make them for yourself;
  • Choose a Back-Up Diver:  create a health care power of attorney to identify the person(s) you trust most to take charge of your health care decisions, should you not be able to make them for yourself;
  • Update your Map and Make Sure Your Driver is Prepared:  if your choices about end of life health care change over time, be sure you update your living will and health care power of attorney and let the persons involved know about your update;

For more information, visit

Palliative Care and hospice are often confused.  Palliative care addresses quality of life (social, psychological, physical, emotional, spiritual) regardless of treatment choices.  Easing pain and discomfort, whether physical or emotional, is a critical step in caring for elderly people who may be facing death, imminent or not.  Hospice is identified as providing care, including palliative, when an individual has less than six months to live.  In other words, palliative care and hospice may be provided simultaneously.  And palliative care may be provided even if the individual is choosing aggressive medical treatment to stay alive.

Doctors, nurses and social workers generally head the Palliative Care Team; other members may include pharmacists, massage therapists, volunteers, dietitians, physical therapists and other care givers. 

Hospice care is provided when a physician determines an individual has less than six months to live.  HospiceNet emphasizes hospice as a concept, not a place.  It is a way of providing service, which is generally palliative care, not curative.  A team similar to the Palliative Care Team offers medical care and comfort to the person facing her/his last days.

The Internet offers a vast reservoir of resources for seniors needing further information.  Search terms you may want to use as you seek more information include hospice, palliative, end of life, advance care planning and health care power of attorney.   

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