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Now is a good time to talk about end-of-life planning

A good death can be hard to achieve without advance planning, according to a new end-of-life guide published in this month’s issue of Consumer Reports and found online at ConsumerReports.org/EndOfLife.

The report and accompanying video documentary chronicles the last months of Hospice Buffalo patient Paul Scheier, an 87-year-old retired dentist from Orchard Park who succumbed to lung cancer – doing so under the conditions that he outlined in advance – in his own bedroom with his wife of 62 years, and their four grown children, at his side.

Consumer Reports also includes results from the publication’s recent survey of 2,015 adults that found 86 percent of Americans want to spend their final days at home. Perhaps most surprising: Only 47 percent of seniors over 65 have completed an advance directive, also known as a health care proxy, in New York State, and 61 percent of those polled have never heard of palliative care – the use of medication or other therapies to ease the pain and symptoms of disease for anyone with a serious illness.

“People who have palliative care can also be going for life-sustaining treatment. Palliative care helps with short- and long-term goals and planning,” Dr. Bethany Calkins, the Hospice Buffalo home care physician for Scheier, said in a news release.

The most effective way to enforce end-of-life wishes is to create an advance directive or a living will and to appoint a health care proxy. This time of year is ideal for a family to talk about their wishes, said Dr. Patricia Bomba, Univera Healthcare vice president and medical director for geriatrics.

“It’s starting the discussion early, not waiting until people are in the ICU,” Bomba told WNY Refresh earlier this year. “Not waiting until people can’t make their own decisions and can’t convey what is important to them. At the end of the day, the planning helps. It helps families to be able to grieve and to recognize the circle of life. It also gives you an appreciation when you have these discussions, it’s not about death and dying, it’s about living.”

On the Web: Consumer Reports offers an end-of-life planning checklist and we provide other helpful advice at refresh.buffalonews.com.