HEALTH

Talking to your doctor about end-of-life care

Apr 23, 2019, 2:38 PM | Updated: 2:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — According to a study by The Conversation Project, 90% of Americans believe that talking to their loved ones about end-of-life care is important. But the same study found that only 27% of respondents have actually had the conversation.

“It’s a difficult topic to talk about,” said Dr. Chad Bittner, speaking with KSL NewsRadio’s Maria Shilaos. “You are talking about how to make decisions for when you’re at the end of your life.”

In recognition of National Healthcare Decisions Week, Bittner joined Shilaos on last week’s episode of Let’s Get Moving with Maria to discuss end-of-life care and the conversations surrounding it.

 

It’s important to discuss and document your preferences for end-of-life care, Bittner said, for the benefit of both yourself and your loved ones.

“Things can change very quickly and put you in a situation where you can’t speak for yourself,” Bittner explained. “If you haven’t discussed this with others and written it down on paper as to what your wishes are, very few people, if any, are going to know what you want done.”

“That’s extremely stressful, not only for you, but for loved ones, family members and even your healthcare providers,” he continued.

If you haven’t considered or relayed your wishes in the event of an accident or unexpected decline, Bittner offered these tips.

Consider your wishes privately

“My advice is to first just start thinking about the conversation,” Bittner told Shilaos. “What do you want done in case you need life-sustaining treatment?”

Designate an advocate

“When you’re ready to sit down and have the conversation, choose an advocate, somebody you trust — maybe a family member or a trusted friend — to sit down and start having that conversation and put your thoughts together,” Bittner said.

Involving a family member or friend in your conversation is advantageous to you, Bittner explained, but also to that person — having direct insight into your end-of-life wishes can ease potential stress on them by equipping them to fulfill your desires more confidently.

“It’s important to start that conversation before you even sit down with your doctor so you have an understanding of what you want done and what your family members’ decision-making process is going to be,” Bittner said.

Use forms to guide your conversation with your doctor

When you are ready to speak with your doctor, Bittner recommended using one of several forms to guide the conversation. The standard “Physician’s Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment,” or POLST form, is an option, Bittner said, as is a less formal version on the Conversation Project’s website.

“It can help you start talking and walking through a more relaxed form to answer those questions and talk about what needs to be discussed,” Bittner said of the form.

Document your wishes

While end-of-life wishes are different than a will, it’s still important to keep them written down, Bittner said.

“If you’re in a situation where you can’t speak for yourself, someone is going to need to speak for you,” he said. “And in order to do that, they have to know what your wishes are.”

Bittner emphasized that writing your wishes down is not the same as setting them in stone, and that you can change them at any time.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind tomorrow or ten minutes from now,” he said. “It’s just about starting that conversation.”

Start conversations sooner rather than later

It’s fully appropriate to discuss these things with your adult children and even teens, Bittner said.

“When you’re younger, you think you’re invincible. You think ‘this is never going to happen to me,’ or ‘I’m never going to be in one of these situations.’ But an accident can occur at any moment,” Bittner said. “It’s never too early to start talking about these things.”

You can listen to the full episode here or subscribe to the podcast here.

 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Health

Johnson & Johnson brand baby powder, one of several products at the center of lawsuits against the ...

Kyle Remund

State of Utah reaches settlement with Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson will be giving Utah and many other states a massive payout due to deceptive marketing practices for talc-based products.

10 hours ago

(Canva)...

Heather Peterson

Program connects those who suffered mental health illnesses to employers

SALT LAKE CITY — A sector of Utah’s Department of Health and Human Services is connecting those who have suffered from mental health illnesses with employers to aid in their recovery. With Individual Placement and Support (IPS) offices across the state, they help those who have suffered from mental health crises or a co-occurring substance […]

1 day ago

Orem resident Georgia Burt Presnell celebrated her 105th birthday on Friday. (Emma Everett Johnson)...

Emma Everett Johnson, KSL.com

Orem resident turns 105, has some advice for young people

"I don't feel 105, but I look it," she joked, addressing a crowd of family and friends who were there to celebrate her.

5 days ago

Adam Benicosa next to his mail truck...

Jessica Lowell

Mailman considered a hero after helping a woman who fell

A Roy mailman is being considered a mailman hero after helping a woman who fell while attempting to pull a weed in her yard.

6 days ago

Twenty-three-year-old Brigham Young University student Jack Walker, has been active his entire life...

Britt Johnson

“Diving intervention”: BYU student survives, recovers after suffering heart attack at marathon

A 23-year-old BYU student suffered a heart attack this weekend at the Utah Valley Marathon. He called his survival "divine intervention"

7 days ago

university of utah health hospital shown, workers are starting a union...

Mariah Maynes

University of Utah Hospital to provide employee parking stipends

According to the University of Utah, it will begin providing parking stipends to employees who work on its main hospital campus on July 1.

9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...

Comcast

Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Talking to your doctor about end-of-life care