How to Talk with Your Physician

It's best not to leave it up to your doctor to start these important conversations.

Talking to your physician about your wishes for care at end of life isn’t always easy. Many of us leave it to our doctors to break the ice on these important conversations instead of bringing it up ourselves when the topic is fresh in your mind.

There are a number of steps you can take to effectively communicate your wishes, questions and concerns with your doctor. Consider the following tips as you prepare to share your plan with your healthcare providers.

1.       Be prepared

Make a list of the topics you want to discuss prior to your appointment. When you are in the moment, it might be difficult to remember all of your questions or concerns. A list will help keep you on track.

2.       Be specific about the topic of your appointment

Specify that you want to discuss end-of-life options with your doctor. If you try to tack the topic onto another appointment, there may not be enough time to fully express your opinions and explore your options.

3.       Bring someone

It might be helpful to bring a trusted family member or friend (especially if that person is your Substitute Decision-Maker). This will help you to remember details of the conversation.

4.       Bring your Advance Care Plan

If you already have an Advance Care Plan, bring it with you to discuss further with your doctor. If your physician asks for clarity that may mean that your plan needs additional, descriptive details.

5.       Continue the discussion

Your priorities, values and medical options may change with time. Remember to update your physician and ask additional questions as your life and health change.

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