End of life is the care given to a patient before an anticipated death. This form of care prepares patients for the inevitable in their final life stages. Patients with terminal diseases often require this form of care. It is easier for nurses and doctors to prepare adults and aged patients for their death than to prepare young patients and children. Patients and their families prefer a painless death and assurance of support during the transition. They want constant communication from physicians on the patients’ position and progress. Patients suffering from chronic or irreversible diseases desire a chance to choose whether to die at home with their family and friends or in a hospital.
Current state of end of life care in the US
Many Americans prefer to die in hospitals. The US health care system is well equipped with modern technology that can prolong life for dying patients. The quality of health care has improved and thus patients are assured of quality care in their last life stages. However, a comparison of the US end of life care with other developed countries shows that the country is lagging behind. A recent study conducted to evaluate end of life care revealed that pain and depression among dying patients had increased. The US was lagging being in training doctors in end of life care and in providing hospice to support patients and their families.
One of issues that have affected end of life care in the US is the delay in making decisions. Most families want their patients to live as long as possible. US doctors tend to agree with such families and continue to treat patients instead of preparing them to die. Consequently, resources are allocated to patients with no chance of survival instead of assisting those who have higher chances to live longer. Sometimes it takes months and years to access end of life care. Terminally ill patients are often in and out of hospital in their last stages.
Improving end of life care
It is evident that the US needs to improve the quality of end of life care. Americans including medical practitioners must be willing to talk about death and issues relating to death. Quick decisions on when to allow a patient to die will go a long way in improving end of life care. Patients ought not to bear unnecessary pain just to satisfy their families’ desire to keep them alive longer. However, doctors have a role to play in assisting families make critical decisions. Doctors should direct patients to plan for their last moments and relieve their families’ burden of care. While patients’ preference should be respected, patients should be informed of the consequences of their decisions to their families. Improving patients’ access to hospice and training more doctors and nurses in end of life care will improve this vital care in the country.