5 Faulty Assumptions That Will Sabotage Your End-of-life Care

5 Faulty Assumptions That Will Sabotage Your End-of-life Care

You can spare your family from pain by avoiding these 5 faulty assumptions.

faulty assumptions impact end-of-life care

We reconnected at the therapeutic riding ranch. Maria and I had worked together nearly 20 years ago. As she introduced me to her beautiful horse, we chatted about the past two decades of our lives.

After a few pleasantries and catching up on our careers, Maria shared the recent loss of her sister. The emotional impact was still fresh, evident in the tears welling in her eyes. That opened our conversation about the difficult choices families face at the end of a person’s life.

Maria shared, “I know exactly what care I want—and what I don’t want—when my time comes. I don’t want to be kept alive like my sister.”

I pressed Maria a bit as she began brushing her chestnut mare. “Have you put it in writing?”

“Well, no, but I am sure my husband would know what to do….except…well…” Her voice wavered. “I’m not sure if he’d let me go. I don’t want to live hooked up to machines. He saw me arguing with my brother-in-law for days; he kept holding on, but I wanted my sister to die with peace. So my husband must know I don’t want that to happen to me.”

As Maria shared the details of her sister’s passing, my heart swelled with sadness. Maria felt certain her own passing would be more peaceful, whenever the time came. Yet as she described her own wishes, I recognized several faulty assumptions that many adults—like Maria—make regarding end-of-life healthcare decisions.

Are you making any of these faulty assumptions regarding your end-of-life care?

1. Healthcare Directives are for people over 70.

No one expects a sudden medical crisis. Yet none of us is immune from the impact of tragic circumstances beyond our control that can occur at any age. If a severe accident or a sudden health decline impaired your ability to think or communicate, treatment decisions will be made on your behalf. Writing a healthcare directive ensures your instructions will inform and guide the decisions-maker.

2. My spouse will make the best decisions for my care.

In most cases, the spouse will serve as the patient’s healthcare agent. However, before making this assumption, have you stopped to consider whether your spouse will be able to assertively—even aggressively—advocate for your wishes even if the medical team disagrees? Will he or she be able to make the difficult decisions if required, even turning off a ventilator if necessary? In some cases, your interests might be better served by selecting someone other than your spouse to serve as your healthcare agent. Choose your healthcare agents wisely.

3. My family will agree on what’s best for my care.

During the intense stress of a medical crisis, your family might not agree. Emotions will be amplified. Family dynamics, particularly the dysfunctional dynamics, will be on steroids. Without your clear instructions, your family can unravel, traumatized by both your medical crisis and the painful family battle that ensues as loved ones argue over your care.

4. My doctors will allow me to pass peacefully.

Emergency medical teams are highly motivated to try everything possible to keep the patient alive. If the family is arguing over treatment choices, the medical team will certainly pursue all possible treatment to reduce the risk of a lawsuit brought forth by a grieving family member. Moreover, for many doctors, acknowledging the patient is dying is akin to failure. Better to offer hope by suggesting more treatment choices even if these treatments will only prolong the dying process and will not improve the patient’s condition.

5. Insurance, including Medicare, will cover the costs.

End of life healthcare costs are exorbitant and insurance doesn’t cover them all. While grieving the loss of a loved one, families are surprised—and sometimes devastated—to receive the hospital bill. If no one is equipped or legally empowered to make the difficult decisions, a loved one can lingered in Intensive Care for weeks, costing the family tens—even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Writing a healthcare directive eliminates the risks caused by these faulty assumptions. Your healthcare directive will:

  • Ensure you receive ALL of the care—but ONLY the care—you desire, according to your wishes;
  • Legally empower and support the right people to make decisions on your behalf;
  • Protect your loved ones from painful conflict, sparing them from having to guess or argue over your care.

With a well-crafted healthcare directive, you and your loved ones will have peace of mind in knowing your preferences can be honored.

Need help getting started? Check out Healthcare Directives from the Heart, my coaching program that offers a clear blueprint, structured process and friendly tools to help you write a truly meaningful directive.


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