For Patients & Visitors
Advance Care Planning Conversations
Start a conversation
Starting a conversation with anyone about advance health care planning can be challenging. We understand and can help you with tips on how to start to talk:
- With family and friends
- With your primary care provider
- With specialty doctors
- If you are admitted to the hospital
With family and friends
Some questions you may ask are:
- If you could plan it today, what would the last day or week of your life look like? Who would be there? Where would you like to be?
- What are your fears or concerns about the process of dying?
- What care would you want during a severe illness or as you were dying?
- What kind of care would you like to receive if you found yourself suddenly in a vegetative state?
- Where would you prefer to spend your last days if you were ill? At home? At a nursing home? In a hospital?
- Who would you want to make medical decisions for you if you are unable?
- What are your beliefs about how long life should be preserved? Are there any physical or mental conditions that would make you believe that life-prolonging treatment should no longer be used?
With your primary care provider
It is OK to ask about what the end of life may look like and what treatment options are available. Some questions you may ask are:
- Will you talk openly and candidly with me and my family about my illness?
- What kind of decisions will my family and I have to make?
- How will you help us make decisions about my illness?
- What will you do if I have uncomfortable symptoms?
- Will you be available to me when I am close to the end of my life?
- How will you care for me throughout my illness?
With specialty doctors
It can be overwhelming, especially as you learn about the diagnosis, treatment process and side effects. Your health care team will consider what treatments to offer based on your current state of health, your current level of activity, the availability of treatment and what benefit you would receive from treatment.
Regardless of what your health care team offers for treatment, you always have the choice to agree or refuse the treatment. It can be difficult to speak with your health care professional about refusing treatment.
Questions that may be helpful to guide the conversation with your health care team are:
- What are the benefits of treatment?
- What will I gain by doing this treatment?
- What would my life look like without doing this treatment?
- What would my life look like living with the side effects of this treatment?
If you are admitted to the hospital
Even without having conversations about advance health care planning, people get sick or find themselves in a crisis. When health care professionals talk to families, it can be hard for families because they are unsure what decisions to make or how their loved one would make decisions.
Some questions your loved ones may ask the health care team include:
- Why is my loved one in the hospital/emergency room/critical care unit?
- What has happened since then?
- What other medical problems does my loved one currently have?
- What treatments are being given or are being planned?
- What are the possible outcomes of each treatment?
- Are there other treatment options?
- What are the burdens of the treatment as compared to the benefits?
- What decisions do we have to make right now and what decisions will we have to make later?