Teleological care and the last years of life
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The final years of life present challenges for care. In middle-/high-income countries, the percentage of people of advanced age in the population is growing, and the dying process continues to become more complex and protracted. We propose that a new understanding of care, 'teleological care', be considered as an important response to the contemporary challenges of the final years of life. Teleological care is a philosophy of care built around the root idea of a telos (i.e. end) in three senses: (1) the end of life as a temporal limit; (2) the ends of life as the individual's purpose and meaning; (3) the end of life as the meaning of life as a whole. In its practice, teleological care adheres to principles of (1) fidelity of practitioner to patient; (2) generalism of practitioners; and (3) coordination of care within existing services. With this philosophy and practice, care is administered by generalist health care professionals arranging for flow between care that attempts to reverse, stop or slow the disease process when appropriate, with care to address symptoms, and with care that responds to the difficulties of dying. Teleological care involves already existing programmes in roughly their present forms, serving as an overarching layer of organization added to the existing systems. Teleological care refocuses the concept of care to the patient's perspective with emotional, spiritual and practical support for facing the end of life, and a space for narrative and reflection within a wider circle of care.
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