Elderly patients with end stage renal disease (ESRD) frequently suffer from frailty, multiple comorbidities, and complications that greatly increase the mortality rate for this population. The irreversibility and variability of ESRD directly affect quality of life, which highlights the importance of gaining an early understanding of the preferences and expectations of these patients with regard to end-of-life care. This article describes a nursing experience that used ethical analysis to help an elderly ESRD patient and the dilemma faced by his family as to whether to sustain or withdraw hemodialysis. This article examines the uncertain trajectories of this disease and how to use shared decision making with the patient and his/her family to make the best decisions. A comprehensive assessment was conducted to identify the major health-related problems, to elicit the dilemmas faced in making the decision to sustain or end hemodialysis, and to understand the pain and suffering of the patient. Symptom control and comfort were identified as the most important goals of the patient, followed by building trust and rapport with his family. An analysis of the pros and cons of treatment was conducted using the 4-box ethical analysis developed by Josen, Siegler, and Winslade. The shared decision-making process was applied to help the patient express his expectations for his end-of-life care. While the health professionals considered that pain and suffering may influence the patient’s decision, the patient found his connection between himself and others, self-value, and meaning of life through family love and support. A needs-based, flexible approach was adopted that established a continuous-care plan that was designed to provide the best care for the patient under a variety of possible scenarios while involving the family, which created a family-centered decision-making process that improved the quality of life of the elderly ESRD patient.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes