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Addressing end-of-life choices for patients


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The recent incident at Glenwood Gardens in California has hopefully spurred nurses and administrators across the nation to improve their caregiver roles and policies related to end-of-life situations.

These events remind us once again of the importance of having end-of-life affairs in order BEFORE the end of life. Communicating these desires should be neither time-consuming nor costly.

Patients and caregivers alike may view addressing end-of-life desires with reluctance at best. Many facilities include a “Yes/No” question on the admission interview about having a living will, but rarely is any follow-up provided for those who answer “No.”

I recently came across a website, Good End of Life, that provides a simple approach to items that need to be addressed concerning end-of-life. Nurses should review this site for themselves and their patients for the following reasons:

1. It’s easy to navigate and understand.

Easy-to-understand means less time lost trying to figure out legal jargon. This site is appropriate for elderly clients and those who can read on a 5th to 8th grade level.

2. Good End of Life sells nothing.

No worries about scams. No worries about overpaying for services. It’s just basic information, free PDF worksheets that open in browser windows and a few links to other sites for more research.

3. The website includes more than just end-of-life suggestions and documents.

A panicked trip to the ER can result in little to no information being available to the ER staff about you or your health history. This site offers a free Medical Summary worksheet (Excel file requires download) that can be filled out and stored in case of emergency.

4. The author welcomes input from clients and caregivers alike.

Current information is valuable, but no one person can keep up with it all the time. Based on your experiences, consider helping to improve this website by sending an email to the contact person listed on the site. Nurses have such widely varied experiences that we are ideal professionals to speak up on how to improve end-of-life care for the majority of the population.

Having a patient’s end-of-life choices in written form is not only beneficial to the patient, but also to the family and professional caregivers. We should all encourage each other and our patients to address this need to avoid unnecessary end-of-life anxiety.

Does your facility have a procedure in place to address the needs of those who do not currently have living wills? Tell us in the comments!

Jessica Ellis
With experience in multiple specialties such as ER, ICU, CVICU, PACU, NICU and case management, Jessica has also been a key contributor for several of the world’s leading healthcare publishers. Jessica has been certified in CPR, BLS Instructor, PHTLS, ACLS, TNCC, CFRN, NRP, PALS and CPS. She previously functioned as an editor and contributor for, and an author/editor of numerous online nursing CEU courses for Coursepark. Jessica accepts ongoing professional nursing writing contracts for both authoring and editing from major textbook and online education publishers internationally.

    Nursing history: The first African-American to practice medicine in the U.S.

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