Sometimes, it may be challenging to discuss certain health issues, particularly those surrounding life-limiting illnesses. Many may be intimidated to discuss end-of-life care options because they believe it may appear as if they are giving up, or that these discussions may cause stress and anxiety for their loved ones. But end-of-life discussions are one of the most important conversations a patient can have with his or her physician. It provides the opportunity to assess all of their care options and openly communicate their wishes, in case a time comes when they are no longer able to do so on their own behalf.
The following questions can help you determine what’s right for you as you begin end-of-life care conversations with your doctor.
- When it is your time to die, where you like to be, and with whom?
- If your preference is to die at home, what would you need to make that happen? Who would be your caregiver?
- How do you feel about depending on others at the end of life?
- Do you want to know if you have a terminal illness? Do you want others to know? Why or why not?
- What do you think a physician’s role should be in discussing end-of-life issues?
- What are your greatest fears about end of life? What would help reduce those fears?
- If faced with a terminal illness, what would be most important to you? What would it mean to live well for however much time you have left?
- Do you have an advance directive (i.e., a living will or power of attorney for healthcare)? Do you know how to get one? Do you know how, and when to update your advance directives?
- How do you think you would react if your doctor tried to discuss end-of-life care options with you? Would you feel that your doctor wasn’t doing everything possible to cure your illness and save your life?
- If it was determined that you were terminally ill and could no longer eat and drink on your own, would you want artificial nutrition and hydration (e.g., a feeding tube and intravenous fluids)?
- If you could no longer breathe on your own, would you want to be hooked up to an artificial breathing device (a medical ventilator)?
- Do you feel comfortable talking to your physician about end-of-life issues?
- Have you had the conversation about your end-of-life wishes with your family members and healthcare providers? If not, are you going to discuss these matters with them, and if so, when?
- What do you know about hospice? How did you learn about it? What experience have you had with hospice?
- Do you know what hospice services are available to you?
For more information about initiating end-of-life conversations, visit http://www.considertheconversation.org/.