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5 Important End-Of-Life Topics to Discuss

Update Date: Nov 03, 2014 12:30 PM EST

A new study set out to find the kinds of topics that dying patients felt were important to include in their end-of-life discussions with their doctors and their loved ones. By identifying the patients' top priorities, doctors can improve patients' quality of care.

"Our findings could be used to identify important opportunities to improve end-of-life communication and decision-making in the hospital setting," stated Dr. John You, lead author of the study, according to the press release.

After interviewing 233 older patients suffering from serious diseases and 205 family members, the researchers identified the top 5 end-of-life topics that should be discussed.

1. Preference of care in the case of a life-threatening illness.

A good rapport between doctors and patients can dramatically affect care. Doctors should take into account what the patients want to do in the case of a life-threatening illness. This can range from types of treatments to location of care.

2. Patient values

Patient values are also important to account for. By discussing these values, patients might feel more included in their treatment plans.

3. Prognosis of illness

Prognosis of illness was also considered an important topic to discuss. By knowing how an illness will most likely develop over time, patients and family members can be better prepared each step of the way.

4. Fears of concerns

Dealing with a life-threatening illness can be frightening and stressful. Taking the time to address the concerns of both patients and family members can potentially reduce anxiety and stress levels.

5. Additional questions tied to treatment/care

One of the most important things that doctors can do is addressing any additional questions that patients or family member might have.

"Our results suggest that concordance between preferences and prescribed goals of care, as well as satisfaction with end-of-life communication, increase with the number of elements discussed," the authors wrote.

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

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