Handbook for Mortals : Planning Ahead

"I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day. But one day, I know, it will be otherwise."
Jane Kenyon, from "Otherwise"
Picture of an elderly woman

Most of us do not plan for serious illness and death. And many of us feel that if we donít talk about bad things, they wonít happen to us. However, talking, planning, and being better prepared for the end of life can let you live fully and more comfortably in your final days. Have you thought about the care you want during a severe illness or as you are dying? Have you talked with your family about plans to ensure you will get the care that you want? When you are very sick, you are likely to have some times when you cannot say what you want done. By deciding some things ahead of time, you can have a say in your care.

How can you get started? First, think in very general terms. Do you want every possible treatment tried, even when it involves mechanical support for body functions, or even when it is not likely to work? Do you want to die at home, even if doing that means not having a way to get some treatments? Have you talked with your family about the kind of care you want? Does your physician know how you feel? Many of us donít take the time to figure out our wishes and hopes for the end of our lives. Others write living wills, but donít tell anyone what they really want that document to accomplish. These conversations are an important part of living and dying well with a serious illness.

Why should I make plans now?
Values History Questionnaire
Definitions in Advance Care Planning
Talking To Family and Completing Forms
Questions To Ask Your Doctor To Help You Plan Ahead
Making Sure Your Wishes Are Respected and Followed
What else should I plan for?
Questions and Answers About Advance Directives


The online tutorial titled "Planning Ahead" is based on Chapter 10 of the print version of the book.
Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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