End-of-life care: We must find ways to improve it

In the 1900’s, death often took place in someone’s home with loved ones nearby. Now, as more people are living longer and lifestyles have changed, death often occurs in a hospital overseen by trained staff. The resulting increase in the cost of dying has raised serious issues related to the current American health care system.

The National Institute of Medicine, the health branch of the National Academy of Sciences, recently announced that “given the rapidly changing environment for health care delivery, punctuated by the landmark passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and the twin imperatives of improving the quality of health care while controlling costs, the time is ripe for a new examination of how individual values and preferences can be aligned while assuring compassionate care focused on the needs of individuals approaching death in an affordable and sustainable manner.” “…the matter of death and dying has become a political as well as an ethical, moral and societal one.”

The Institute said that it is pulling together a panel of experts to tackle this critical subject. “Given the importance of death and dying to our citizens and our nation, the IOM plans to examine the current state of end-of-life care with respect to delivery of medical care and social support; patient-family-provider communication of values and preferences; advance care planning; health care cost, financing and reimbursement; and education of health professionals, patients and their loved ones.

The study will also explore approaches to advance the issues surrounding the end of life from a wide variety of perspectives including clinical care and delivery, resources and workforce, economics, spirituality and compassion.”

On January 29th and 30th, the National Academy of Sciences also hosted the first National Summit on Advanced Illness as part of their effort to find ways for people to get good end-of-life care.

As our society ages, end-of-life care – how to afford and sustain it – becomes a critical subject. To read more, go to http://www.diesmart.com/.

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