The healthcare landscape continues to evolve. So does our approach to end-of-life care. Technology, psychology, and holistic care have transformed the way we navigate this season of life. However, unlike other areas of medicine and science, new or more is not necessarily better.
At the core of all end-of-life care should be the desire to honor life, limit suffering, educate, respect human dignity, and achieve accessibility equally. My top five innovations may not be considered the most advanced, yet they do offer hope. Hope for life, suffering, dignity, and accessibility.
In a world where the sanctity of life is often challenged, the Christian community finds itself grappling with ethical dilemmas that test the core of its beliefs. One issue that has sparked heated debates and moral reflections is euthanasia, the deliberate act of ending a person’s life to relive suffering.
Proponents of euthanasia argue for its compassionate intentions in relieving unbearable suffering. Christians believe in a God who redeems suffering for a higher purpose. The Bible reminds us that suffering, though difficult, can lead to spiritual growth, resilience, and a deeper understanding of God’s grace.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth
Comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Much like the abortion debate with discussions including late term abortions and even post-delivery infanticide, the legalization of euthanasia is fraught with the potential to be a slippery slope. Another blogger might call the advent of euthanasia an innovation itself. This one calls it murder. Withdrawing care or comfort care is not euthanasia. Euthanasia is the willful decision to choose a death day, a death deliver (inject medications by the patient, a doctor, or a loved one), and a death agent. Honoring life means caring for it from womb to tomb.
Innovations in pain management have significantly improved the quality of life for patients facing terminal illnesses. From targeted drug delivery systems to alternative therapies like virtual reality and music therapy are proven technologies. Tailored pain management plans help alleviate physical discomfort while simultaneously addressing emotional al, psychological, and spiritual care for a more holistic and patient-centric end-of-life experience.
Almost all patients prefer to die at home. Helping families understand this and achieve the patient’s desires is the most valuable gift you can give to the patient for the emotional suffering they are experiencing.
Frequently, patient’s have inner turmoil about not wanting to be a burden to their families and yet, have the comfort of home that can’t be precisely reproduced anywhere else. Patients don’t want to spend their last 6 months dying, they want to spend it living. This is fairly impossible in a clinical setting. Therefore, early planning is crucial. Fortunately, with the advent of comprehensive advanced planning documents such as Five Wishes, discussions around limiting suffering and end-of-life care plans are possible.
While education, in and of itself, may not seem like an innovation, the platforms that have been created to deliver education make it easier than before to prepare for ending well.
At www.drpamela.com you will find many free resources to guide you through a serious or terminal diagnosis. I recommend downloading Resources for a Serious Diagnosis and the Planning for Peace Checklist (located on right side of page).
The world was paralyzed with a pandemic recently and with the prospect of our own mortality splashed across the media, the millennials in their entrepreneurial spirit developed mobile applications for patients and families in deathcare. In the Planning for Peace Checklist, I list a few resources that I have reviewed.
When it comes to end-of-life care and in particular, hospice care, it is important to find the right hospice for you. In many cases they will be your primary source for education. However, finding the right hospice that fits your needs including spiritual needs. Next year I will be sharing a lot of information regarding medicine and money and the avarice it creates. This is especially true in the world of hospice.
Respect Human Dignity
This may not seem like a topic filled with innovation, and it is not from a technology perspective. However, awareness is increasing in how best to care for the dying patient. As human beings we seek to have autonomy, our adult life gives us the freedom to make choices. This can result in good or bad consequences, and this is our growth journey.
When our body shrivels, or our mind fails us, we still need to feel a sense of autonomy. This helps us keep a sense of ourselves and our dignity. Though our behavior may not reflect adult problem solving skills, we are still adults seeking to find our own dignity.
For example, a dear friend’s mother was recently admitted to the hospital with delirium (confused and agitated). This was quite unlike her mother’s normal behavior. To make matters worse, her mother was in a city seven hours away visiting a friend. Her hospital stay was brief, and the cause of her confusion was traced back to a medication effect and her thoughts cleared with no recollection of the previous eight hours. All tests were normal.
She continued her visit with her friend and her daughter wanted to arrange for one of the grandchildren to drive her home after her visit. This would seem a straight-forward solution for the family to provide a safe transition to her hometown and primary care doctor.
Well, it didn’t go so smoothly. The mother refused this assistance and was determined to drive by herself when she was, “darn good and ready!” After hearing this story, I recognized the mother’s need to regain her sense of autonomy and someone else driving her home would be the first step to losing her ability to pick up and drive somewhere which was a habit of hers.
If you are like me, you can understand the perspective of the mother wanting to keep her freedom and her family wanting to make sure she stayed safe. In this circumstance, the solution was the grandson who wanted to drive her home. He just said he would love to spend that time with her, and the value of that time together trumped the worry about losing her freedom.
When you consider this story, you may wonder how this relates to an innovation. We must consider the truth that maintaining autonomy for as long as possible is extremely important for us, our loved ones, and those for whom we care. Sometimes, we must be innovative to make that happen.
In this case it was a simple solution. However, the more we plan for future circumstances like when is the right time for someone to stop driving, the easier it is when it comes time. You create indicators along the way that everyone agrees upon and write them down.
In my digital course which will be available soon, I give examples in one of the modules of fear driven behavior (in this case, fear of loss of autonomy) and how to prepare and prevent potentially dangerous situations.
Aging in place, driving longer are possible with early and often planning. Simple technology such as an Apple watch can send rescue calls in the case of a fall, or abnormal vitals. Cars with features that are accident protective or self-driving are available now and will make it safer for everyone on the road. Innovation which respects human dignity brings hope for those with a serious or terminal diagnosis and our aging population.
Achieve Accessibility Equally
Healthcare equity is an important goal for any aspect of healthcare delivery. This is especially true for the care of those at the end-of-life. The reality is that our system falls short of providing the necessary care when needed most.
We spend billions of dollars doing things to patients in the belief that we are doing things for patients. It has been shown that patients who have an Advance Care Plan choose hospice earlier with hopes of spending more time at home than in hospitals. This requires effort and time from clinicians to initiate these conversations. One of the purposes of this website, blog, and book launching in 2025 is to equip patients with the knowledge to advocate for themselves and their loved ones in these settings.
In an era where technology connects us across vast distances, telemedicine has emerged as a crucial innovation in end-of-life care. Virtual hospice care enables patients to receive medical consultations, emotional support, and even spiritual guidance from their homes.
The advent of End-of-Life Doulas has provided additional support for patients and families. They are trained to assist in a comprehensive manner and are available in most locations. There are many certifying organizations and locating a doula near you can result in a cascade of options. The International End-of-Life Doula Association (INELDA) is one of the earliest developed programs and their directory of providers can be found here.
We have considered the importance of innovation in different aspects of healthcare in our Unraveling Hope series. It is a moment like this one that I wish that I were there with you as you read. I long to speak words of hope over you and hold your hands as I share the reason for my hope. Please know that my heart holds the weight of many who have needed hope in their dying journey. The hope I have and the hope I give is Jesus Christ. Innovation is temporary but He is eternal.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by
the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
1 Peter 1:3