Q: Why do I need to plan for end-of-life care now?

A: You may feel as if you have plenty of time to think about end-of-life care. Even as you read this, you may think this subject isn’t for you — but it is. Although it may seem daunting, proper planning allows you to be intentional and in control during the final chapters of your life.

End-of-life care refers to the broad range of health-care services available to patients in their final hours, days, months, or years of advanced or incurable illness. There are three types of end-of-life care to consider:

  • Curative care allows for aggressive treatment at the first sign of illness.
  • Palliative care, for patients with chronic conditions or terminal illnesses, ensures improved quality of life, relief from pain, and treatment to extend the life of the patient.
  • Hospice care seeks to keep terminal patients comfortable and maintain end-of-life wishes.

When planning end-of-life care, consider the decisions you or your family might face. Who will speak for you if you are incapacitated? How much money should you save to ensure the quality of life you will want, and when should you start? What religious, spiritual, or cultural values should your family and caregivers consider?

Like planning for retirement, the rule should be “the earlier the better” when planning for end-of-life care. There are two legal tools you can use to start planning early. A “living will” lists the treatments (or lack of treatments) you wish to request in the event of terminal illness. “Medical durable power of attorney” grants a trusted friend or relative the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

You can prepare these documents through a lawyer or most faith-based care programs to help begin your planning. Be sure to speak with your doctor regarding advanced directives and a living will as a part of your end-of-life care planning.

Aditi Chincholi is a primary care physician at Mercy Health Associates.