Mesothelioma End-of-Life Decisions
Patients with mesothelioma have little hope of cure or remission because mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is most often diagnosed in later stages. Because there are few hopes for a cure, most patients will have to face some very difficult end of life decisions.
Let your family and close friends help you make these tough decisions. Continuing with medical care, choosing hospice care, financial and legal choices are decisions that will affect the rest of your life and will impact the loved ones you leave behind. In addition to family, rely on professionals, like doctors, lawyers, and financial experts to help you make these decisions.
End-of-Life Medical Decisions
The most important choices you have to make as your mesothelioma progresses involve your medical care. Some people choose at a certain point to forgo painful treatments and to live out their remaining days at home. Others choose to fight the cancer as aggressively as possible, which often means staying in a hospital. These are personal choices, and only the patient can make the final decision.
Of course, you can and should rely on loved ones you trust to help you weigh your options and make these choices, even if it ultimately comes down to you. These people love you and have your best interests in mind when giving you advice. In addition to choosing to continue with treatment or not, there are other decisions to be made about medical care.
For instance, if you forgo the most aggressive treatments in favor of living your last days in relative comfort, you will need to choose what kind of care you will receive. You may hire home care workers so you can stay in your home. You may also choose to move to a dedicated hospice facility to get round-the-clock care.
It will help your family if you choose now how much life support you want used to keep you alive. You can make specific choices about ventilators, feeding tubes, and respirators. Deciding when to take away these life support mechanisms is very difficult for loved ones. Decide in advance and put the decision in writing so your family is not forced to make the choice at the end.
Legal End-of-Life Decisions
That final decision about life support can be told to a trusted family member, but your choice is more likely to be carried out if you make it legal. An advance directive is a legal document that a lawyer can help you draft. It will outline the type of care you want to receive and the choices you want made regarding life support when you are no longer able to make decisions because of your advanced mesothelioma.
A living will is another important legal document for end-of-life decisions. It may include advance directives, but also includes information about all aspects of the care you want for yourself and indicates who can communicate your wishes. This does not designate someone to make medical decisions for you. That is done only by the person you have given durable power of attorney for health care. It is important that you complete this legal step as well so that someone you trust, and to whom you have shared your wishes, can make decisions for you.
Legal documents regarding your end of life care should be crafted by a lawyer and distributed to doctors, family members and anyone else involved in your care. This will give you the best assurance that your decisions will be followed. You may want to discuss the choices you made in your living will and advance directives with your loved ones so that they know what to expect.
Financial End-of-Life Decisions for Mesothelioma Patients
A will is an important legal document for making end-of-life decisions about your finances. The more detail you can provide in your will as to what you want done with your money and assets, the easier it will be for your family and the better you can feel about your wishes being carried out. A will outlines what to do with your money, your home if you have one, any accounts you have, and financial and care arrangements for any children or pets.
You can also designate a loved one to have power of attorney for financial issues. This could be the same person designated to make your health care choices, but it need not be. This person will make choices about your estate after you have passed. He or she will make any choices necessary, but these will be few if you have created a detailed will.
Making End-of-Life Decisions Now Keeps the Peace
For many people this is a tough time to be making such important decisions. To face the end of your life is difficult enough, but to face all these choices is even more challenging. It may be difficult, but making choices in advance will make your loss a little easier for your family. When patients have not made any decisions or created legal documents, families must make these choices and try to determine what the patient would have wanted. In some states intestate cases can be drawn out for months or years.
Putting family members in this position isn’t fair if you had the time to make the choices in advance. Many families suffer serious conflicts, sometimes irreparable, over medical, legal and financial decisions for a loved one at the end of life. Rely on those loved ones now to help you make end-of-life decisions so that when you are gone they can focus on their grief and remembering you with love.
Page Edited by Dave Foster
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