In Joyful Hope


Most of us are not medical professionals; many of us feel very disinclined towards learning any more than absolutely necessary about end of life issues.  But when it comes to our own health and that of our loved ones, it helps to understand.

Determine what kind of care you'd like to receive, keeping in mind the importance of pain management and the question of the worthiness of the treatment for the person (not the worthiness of the person for the treatment).

Know what kind of help is needed

What is palliative care? (from the National Consensus Project's definition of Palliative care)

  • Palliative care is patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering. Palliative care throughout the continuum of illness involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs and to facilitate patient autonomy, access to information and choice.
  • The following features characterize palliative care philosophy and delivery:
    • Care is provided and services are coordinated by an interdisciplinary team;
    • Patients, families, palliative and non-palliative health care providers collaborate and communicate about care needs;
    • Services are available concurrently with or independent of curative or life-prolonging care;
    • Patient and family hopes for peace and dignity are supported throughout the course of illness, during the dying process, and after death

What is hospice?

  • A specialized kind of care for those facing a life-limiting illness, their families and their caregivers that
    • addresses the physical needs of patients and their emotional, social and spiritual needs
    • takes place in the patient’s home or in a home-like setting
    • concentrates on making patients as free of pain and as comfortable as they want to be so they can make the most of the time that remains
    • considers helping family members an essential part of its mission
    • believes the quality of life to be as important as length of life

Hospice FAQ's, National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization

NHPCO’s Facts & Figures: Hospice Care in America, National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (2013

Prepare for what dying looks like. 

One resource that frankly and clinically explains the process is How we Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter, by Sherwin Nuland, MD.  Another is Gone from My Sight: The Dying Experience, by Barbara Karnes, RN.

Prudently choose the kind of care you need, where you plan to receive that care, and talk to your healthcare professionals