Questions to Ask About End-of-Life Care

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on November 6, 2018

Have you or a loved one learned that you have a serious illness that can’t be cured? If so, you may be feeling isolated and overwhelmed.

It can help to know what your options are for medical care and emotional support.

Carilion Clinic Hospice has prepared “Carilion Conversations,” a series of helpful questions and suggestions to help you plan and communicate your wishes to others.

The Conversations address your fears, how to find the physical and emotional support you need, how to communicate with your doctors and other medical professionals, and how to make your final plans.

Communication Is Key

“First, talk to your family and friends honestly about your condition,” said Lisa T. Sprinkel, M.S.N., R.N., senior director of Carilion Clinic's Home Care and Hospice. “It can help you achieve peace of mind and help your loved ones understand your goals of care so they can be incorporated in your medical treatment plan.”

“When we prepare for our own death in advance, we’re able to relieve the decision-making burden on those we love and create the opportunity for a peace-filled end of life,” she added.  “Your family also needs to know who you’d like to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated. That person needs to understand and agree to carry out your wishes.”

When you’ve chosen your proxy, share your medical information with them so they are not surprised at a critical time later. Tell them exactly which medical interventions you would like and which you wouldn’t.

Make the Most of Your Time

It’s important to decide how you want to live the final part of your life. Create a bucket list if you don’t have one and identify what you’d like to accomplish. Think about where and when you’ve been happiest. What makes your life worth living?

The Conversations suggest you ask yourself these questions:

  • What would you say if a nurse asked if you were a spiritual person?
  • What three non-medical facts do you want your doctor to know about you?
  • If someone wanted to make a donation in your memory, where should it go and why?
  • If only one story is told at your memorial service, what should it be and who should tell it?
  • Who should sing at your service and what should they sing?
  • Who have you not talked to in more than six months that you want to see before you die?

If you’ve had any rifts with family and friends, it may also give you peace of mind to resolve them. Think about saying “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” Or “I love you.”

Taking these steps can also help you prepare:

  • Decide who you’d like to have your special personal belongings
  • Make arrangements for the care of your pets
  • Ask your doctor about symptom control and palliative care options
  • Consider whether you will need long-term care or a disability policy
  • Update your will and estate plan, if you have one
  • Execute a financial power of attorney
  • Consider completing a living will and an advance directive
  • If you are a single parent, establish a guardianship for your children

Even if you’re healthy now, planning for end-of-life care can help assure you that your wishes will be carried out. And don’t forget to identify your legacy—those lessons that you most want to pass on to family and friends.

For more information on planning care or to learn more about our "Carilion Conversations" series, go to Carilion Clinic Home Care and Hospice or call 540-224-4753.

If you are a caregiver, these tips can help you.