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5 Steps to Determine When Life Support Should Be Discontinued

when to end life support

In any facet of life we ask ourselves “when.” When to leave, when to meet, when to stop, when to start, and, of course, when to let go. That last of these being the most difficult of all.

Although there is not a simple “worksheet” or clinical “checklist” to inform us when it is time to start the process to discontinue life support, we can follow five simple steps in determining reasons for stopping life support. These will help guide and assist the patient/caregiver in making the right decision at the right time. You can also check out our list of end-of-life symptoms to learn more about determining when life support should be discontinued.

These steps include the following:

  1. Have a discussion with the patient/caregiver in advance to determine care goals;
  2. Discuss treatment options and the benefit vs. the futility of such treatments;
  3. Assess the physical condition of the patient and ascertain if the criterion is indicating that treatment is no longer beneficial; is now the time to offer palliative care versus ongoing life support and aggressive care measure;
  4. Assess the psychological state of the patient and caregiver and implement emotional support;
  5. Contact end-of-life-care professionals such as Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care to help you, help them make the right decision at the right time.

Crossroads is available 24 hours a day to offer family hospice caregiver resources for those struggling with questions about when life support should be discontinued. If you know a patient or family who could benefit from the support of hospice care as they approach end-of-life, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.

DeAnna Looper RN, CHPN, CHPCA
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care
Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations

Recommended Reading:

Ending Life Support: How Do You Know When It's Time?
Why It's OK for Your Loved One to Stop Eating and Drinking on Hospice
Approaching the Hospice Conversation: Best Practices for Physicians