ITEMS IN AFP WITH MESH TERM:
End-of-Life Care - Editorials
Initiating Discussions About Advance Directives - Editorials
ABSTRACT: Once the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease has been made, a treatment plan must be developed. This plan should include cholinesterase inhibitor therapy to temporarily improve cognition or slow the rate of cognitive decline, management of comorbid conditions, treatment of behavioral symptoms and mood disorders, provision of support and resources for patient and caregiver, and compliance with state-mandated reporting requirements for driving impairment and elder abuse. The primary caregiver can be a valuable ally in communication, management of care, and implementation of the care plan. Patient symptoms and care needs change as Alzheimer's disease progresses. In the early stage of the disease, the family physician should discuss realistic expectations for drug therapy, solicit patient and family preferences on future care choices, and assist with advance planning for future care challenges. In the middle stage, the patient may exhibit behavioral symptoms that upset the caregiver and are difficult to manage. When the patient is in the advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease, the caregiver may need support to provide for activities of daily living, help in making a difficult placement decision, and guidance in considering terminal care options. Throughout the course of the disease, routine use of community resources allows care to be provided by a network of professionals, many of whom will be specialists in Alzheimer's disease.
ABSTRACT: Ethnic minorities currently compose approximately one third of the population of the United States. The U.S. model of health care, which values autonomy in medical decision making, is not easily applied to members of some racial or ethnic groups. Cultural factors strongly influence patients' reactions to serious illness and decisions about end-of-life care. Research has identified three basic dimensions in end-of-life treatment that vary culturally: communication of "bad news"; locus of decision making; and attitudes toward advance directives and end-of-life care. In contrast to the emphasis on "truth telling" in the United States, it is not uncommon for health care professionals outside the United States to conceal serious diagnoses from patients, because disclosure of serious illness may be viewed as disrespectful, impolite, or even harmful to the patient. Similarly, with regard to decision making, the U.S. emphasis on patient autonomy may contrast with preferences for more family-based, physician-based, or shared physician- and family-based decision making among some cultures. Finally, survey data suggest lower rates of advance directive completion among patients of specific ethnic backgrounds, which may reflect distrust of the U.S. health care system, current health care disparities, cultural perspectives on death and suffering, and family dynamics. By paying attention to the patient's values, spirituality, and relationship dynamics, the family physician can elicit and follow cultural preferences.
What My Brother Knew - Close-ups
ABSTRACT: Despite widespread support for the concept of advance care planning, few Americans have a living will or a health care proxy. Advance care planning offers the patient the opportunity to have an ongoing dialog with his or her relatives and family physician regarding choices for care at the end of life. Ultimately, advance care planning is designed to clarify the patient's questions, fears and values, and thus improve the patient's well-being by reducing the frequency and magnitude of overtreatment and undertreatment as defined by the patient. An advance directive consists of oral and written instructions about a person's future medical care in the event he or she becomes unable to communicate. There are two types of advance directives: a living will and a health care power of attorney. Family physicians are in an ideal position to discuss advance care plans with their patients. By introducing the subject during a routine office visit, physicians can facilitate a structured discussion of the patient's wishes for end-of-life care. At the next visit, further discussion can include the patient and his or her proxy. A document that clearly delineates the patient's wishes is then developed. The patient should be assured that the directive can be changed at any time according to the patient's wishes. The advance care plan should be reviewed periodically to make sure the specifications continue to be in line with the patient's wishes.
ABSTRACT: Patients prepare advance directives in an effort to maintain autonomy during periods of incapacity or at the end of life. Advance directive documents are specific to the state in which the patient lives, but an effective strategy in the family physician’s office involves more than filling out a form. Physician barriers to completing an advance directive include lack of time and discomfort with the topic. On the patient’s part, lack of knowledge, fear of burdening family, and a desire to have the physician initiate the discussion are common barriers. Once the advance directive is complete, barriers to implementation include vague language, issues with the proxy decision maker, and accessibility of the advance directive. Overcoming these barriers depends on effective communication at multiple visits, including allowing the patient the opportunity to ask questions. Involving the family or a proxy early and over time can help the process. It may be helpful to integrate advance directive discussions at selected stages of the patient’s life and as health status changes.