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Closure.org Blog

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Health Affairs Blog

This past December, Nancy Zionts, chief program officer for JHF, posted an entry about end-of-life discussions on the Health Affairs Blog. That entry is below.

End-of-life care presents emotional, physical, and financial burdens for patients and their loved ones. At the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), in Pittsburgh, we have become somewhat fixated on the fact that the health care system too often fails families and patients at end of life. Unfortunately, failure is what most people expect. But JHF end-of-life initiatives in the Pittsburgh area are showing that better realities are possible.

Recently, the Dartmouth Atlas Project released its first-ever report on cancer care at end of life, which showed that one in three Medicare cancer patients spends his or her final days in hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs), an indication that many clinical teams aggressively and often futilely treat patients with curative care close to the times of their deaths. The report suggests that we are underutilizing hospice and palliative care, which receive high marks from families and patients at end of life.

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Written by Administrator on February 4th, 2011 at
Tagged with: None

Making Hard Decisions Easier

From the John A. Hartford Foundation Blog

By Amy Berman

Shortly after I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer a scan showed a hot spot on my lower spine.  Was it the spread of cancer?  My oncologist scheduled a bone biopsy at my hospital, Maimonides Medical Center, in order for us to find out.

A few days before the procedure, I went in for preadmissions testing.  As part of my formal intake, in addition to collecting my insurance information and poking and prodding me a few times, the nurse asked me if I would like to fill out an advance directive. This was not because she was a miraculous oracle who knew the outcome of my biopsy, which would leave me with a Stage IV  diagnosis. No, her question was merely standard procedure.  I said yes, and shortly, a specially trained social worker arrived to walk me through the process.

A cheerful young woman reminiscent of a camp counselor sat down next to me with papers neatly attached to her clipboard.  The first step, she explained, is appointing a health care proxy, someone you trust to make health decisions for you should you become incapacitated.  Being a nurse, I knew this, but it was comforting having someone there with me while I filled out the form. I chose my mother.  Since my diagnosis, she and I had had numerous conversations about what I wanted should my disease progress and take away my quality of life. I trusted that she would respect my wishes, even if that meant making painful decisions as my disease progresses.

(Read More >>)
Written by on June 13th, 2011 at
Tagged with: None

Dealing with Denial

By Toni Steres

 

My grandfather is dying.  I tear up just typing that sentence.  He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August of 2010 and without going into details, was given 6 months to a year back in December of the same year. 

As a registered nurse, I know how important it is for patients to make end-of-life decisions before you actually need them.  I have many stories of patients who planned ahead—and ones where patients did not.  As you can imagine, those who did not left their families in turmoil—“What did he want to have happen?  Do you know?  Does anyone in the family know?”

 

I hoped that my grandfather, being a planner himself, would be willing to discuss this with me.  But the denial stage of grief is a powerful thing.  When I first brought up the thought that plans needed to be made—he cringed and changed the subject.  Later, he told my father that it depressed him when I brought up the subject. 

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Written by robots= on July 11th, 2011 at
Tagged with: None

Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

By Marian Kemp

Talking about care at the end of life is not easy. Yet communicating wishes for care in the final months is important. It helps to ensure wishes are honored and eases the burden on loved ones.

Seriously ill patients and/or their families may hear of a document that can help ensure that an individual's health care treatment wishes at the end of life are respected. This document, called the Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment or POLST, was approved for use in Pennsylvania late in 2010 by the Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH).

The POLST form is recommended for persons who have advanced chronic progressive illness and/or frailty, those who might die in the next year, or anyone of advanced age with a strong desire to further define their preferences of care in their present state of health. To determine whether a POLST form should be encouraged, healthcare professionals ask themselves, "Would I be surprised if this person died in the next year?" If the answer is "No, I would not be surprised", then a POLST form is appropriate.

(Read More >>)