How to Talk to Your Doctor about Hospice
It's only human to shy away from talking about death and dying. But if you or a loved one has a serious illness, chances are your doctor would welcome the chance to discuss your wishes concerning end-of-life care, including what hospice can do to help.
Of course, the best time to talk to your doctor about end-of-life care is long before you need it. Studies show that individuals who have the end-of-life conversation with their doctors experience less anxiety about death and more control over their medical care as they near the end of life.
Additionally, they feel their doctor and their family better understand their wishes,¹ such as wanting to remain at home, or not being a burden, or hoping to see distant friends or family.
If your prognosis is 6 months or less, your doctor may have already broached the subject of hospice. Now that you are ready, here are a few things you may wish to consider when talking to your doctor about hospice:
- If you choose hospice care, will your doctor support your decision? Will he or she remain your primary care physician and travel this journey with you?
- If you have advanced directives, is your doctor willing to follow those directives? If your doctor is opposed to your wishes, for either moral or ethical reasons, he or she is not legally bound to carry them out.²
- Ask about how your symptoms will be managed and how your pain will be controlled. Talk about the relationship between pain relief and alertness.¹ Is your doctor supportive in allowing you to determine how much pain medicine or sedation is enough?
- Share with your doctor your definition of "quality of life." What matters most to you? How can your doctor help give your life meaning?
- If you become incapable of making decisions, will your doctor honor your requests as voiced and/or documented by a family member or healthcare agent? Make sure you have an advance directive (e.g., a living will, durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions, or Five Wishes document) that spells out your wishes if you are unable to communicate or make decisions.