Advice and Tips


Talking to Your Doctors

Do not wait until a crisis occurs before discussing concerns about end-of-life treatments with your doctor. Chances are that he or she is waiting for you to start the conversation.

When you discuss your concerns and choices with your doctor, it is important to:

  • Let your doctor know if you have an advance directive.
  • Make sure you get a clear explanation from your doctor about treatments and procedures that may seem confusing before you complete your advance directive.
  • Make sure your doctor knows what is important to you.
  • Determine whether your doctor will follow your advance directive. The law does not force physicians to follow advance directives if they disagree with your wishes for moral or ethical reasons.
  • Talk to your doctor about the possible physical impacts of grief.
  • Give your doctor a copy of your completed advance directive. Make sure your doctor knows the name and telephone number of your appointed health care agent.
  • Assure your doctor that your family and your appointed health care agent know your wishes.
  • Caregivers should ask the doctor about providing physical caregiving to the loved one who is ill.
  • Find out from your doctor what to expect with regard to pain and what your pain management options may be.
  • One final point: reassess your decisions over time. They might change as circumstances in your life change.

Ask Your Doctor…

  • Will you talk openly and candidly with me and my family about my illness?
  • What decisions will my family and I have to make, and what information will you give to help us make these decisions?
  • Will you go to bat for me with my insurance provider or health plan if you believe that their decisions are not in my best interest?
  • What will you do if I have a lot of pain or other uncomfortable symptoms?
  • How will you help us find excellent professionals with special training when we need them (e.g., medical, surgical and palliative care specialists, faith leader, social workers, etc.)?
  • Will you let me know if treatment stops working so that my family and I can make appropriate decisions?
  • Will you support me in getting hospice care?
  • If I reach a point where I am too sick to speak for myself, how will you make decisions about my care?
  • Will you still be available to me even when I’m sick and close to the end of my life?


If you have a question that isn’t addressed above, email Caring Connections at caringinfo@nhpco.org.

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