A new study recently published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine suggests that doctors and patients could make use of the time old “bucket list” to make improved decisions on end of life care. The bucket list is typically understood as a list of accomplishments or experiences an individual wishes to achieve before his or her passing. Often times, this can be a combination of achievable, real life possibilities or other lists of fantasies.
Other research has already indicated the importance of having end of life care decisions between doctors and patients and this latest article suggests that adding the creation of a “bucket list” could be another vital piece of the puzzle. By focusing purely on diagnostics and disease management, many clinicians may unknowingly create a “conversation gap” that could deprive patients living out their last days in peace and happiness.
Sadly, when patients are faced with a serious diagnosis their sole focus often becomes centered around their medical care and can steer them away from both short and long term life goals. While it can be hard to imagine anything other than undertaking every possible treatment to fight what may otherwise be a terminal illness, many patients fail to take into account the loss of life experiences that add up when committing most of their time and effort into beating their disease.
Sometimes, it may necessary to postpone or forgo some medical treatment all together in order to accomplish some of the things we really want to do in life before we pass away. This can mean many things to many different people and should always be weighed heavily and in consultation with the patient’s clinician before making a final decision. For some, it could be travel to exotic places or taking up a new hobby for others.
The study concluded that by eliciting a patient’s bucket list, doctors can create a starting point for the patient’s end of life care goals and create a personalized strategy tailored to the individual patient. The principles can be applied not only to patients with serious medical conditions but also those who simply need long term health care planning. Suggestions from doctors to patients can also include changes to diet and exercise to reach goals, strategic scheduling of elective surgeries, or educating patients on the side effects of treatments that can impact the patient’s daily lives and how to cope with these burdens.