2022 Feb 22. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–.
Unlike other conditions and life experiences, which only affect a certain percentage of the world’s population, the end-of-life is a stage in the process of living, which all people will eventually face. Estimates are there are currently twenty-million people worldwide who need some form of end-of-life care. In the United States, on average, seven thousand people die every day from various illnesses. At some point in their careers, all health professionals who provide direct patient care will most likely encounter an actively dying patient. Therefore, they must understand the issues of concern and the clinical significance of this process.
End-of-life research states advances in healthcare have changed the trajectory of the end-of-life. With advances in medicine, the length of an average life has become longer. Thus, the end-of-life varies significantly from person to person, which makes the period of end-of-life challenging to define.
The term end-of-life definitions vary in the healthcare literature. One of the more common definitions is one that gives a time frame to the estimated length of life, with the most commonly cited time frame as a period of fewer than six months of estimated life. Other end-of-life literature focuses on the last days, hours, or minutes of life. Meanwhile, others define the end-of-life as synonymous with the dying process. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) states that end-of-life care or hospice care commences when a person has a diagnosis of a terminal illness with less than six months to live, and curative treatments are no longer options.
Healthcare professionals must be aware that while the definitions of end-of-life may vary for everyone, the end-of-life is a process that all humans experience. Some patients may receive end-of-life care for months, while others may only receive it for days. Healthcare professionals must be aware and recognize disease trajectory in those with terminal or life-limiting illnesses. In this way, they can prepare for the issues of concerns which these patients face.