When terminally ill patients are feeling relatively well, doctors may sometimes avoid discussing important end-of-life care issues with them, a new study has found.

In January of 2009, the Journal of Cancer surveyed close to 4,000 physicians and asked them how they would counsel a potential cancer patient with four to six months to live. Only a minority said they would discuss such vital issues as end of life nursing and other subject matter related to final preparations. Only when extreme symptoms became present and all treatment options were exhausted would these doctors begin those types of discussions, according to the survey.
According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, these discussions should begin immediately when a patient is diagnosed with less than a year to live. Although various reasons were given for not following these guidelines, the most common reason was that doctors didn’t want to discourage a patient’s hopes or plans for fighting his/her illness. Others simply prefer to continue treatment or keep the options open for experimenting with new treatments.

Around the same time that this study was published, another study demonstrated that patients who were not initially counseled on end of life nursing and care, made drastically different decisions than those patients who were. Studies have also shown that educating patients on end-of life care has a tremendous effect on the reduction of medical costs. Also, nurses and family report a much easier transition when caring for those who are more informed. In addition to the medical cost issue, it’s well known that the number of treatments go up when patients and family are not familiar which their end-of-life options. Needless to say, when the amount of treatment goes up, so does the suffering of those who are involved.
To become more comfortable with initiating these types of discussions, doctors much give up their preconceived notions of what constitutes good end-of-life care. Sometimes moving on to the next treatment is not always the best option. Visit Assisted Living Houston for more information!

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