Nearing the End of Life

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Making end-of-life decisions

Helen, age 72, with advanced cancer: “I’m going to tell my husband that I don’t want anyone pounding on my chest or putting tubes down my throat if I stop breathing. I just want to go naturally. I’m going to tell my children too.”

It’s usually not the act of dying, but the quality of dying that’s the biggest concern at the end of life. Most people who come to accept dying as a natural and normal part of life do not want to prolong the process when it won’t really change the outcome. But thinking about a good death is not something most people do. Some people want to stay at home and have hospice care there. Others choose to go to an assisted living center, a nursing home, or an inpatient hospice program. Some are in the hospital and want any treatment available to keep them alive as long as possible, no matter what their condition might be. Again, you should make the choices that you feel are best for you, your family, and your situation.

The goal of any cancer care is to give you the best possible quality of life. This is a very personal issue. There are ways you can be sure that your family and your cancer care team know what’s important to you and what you want to be able to continue to do.

At this point think not only about how you are going to live the next few months, but also try to think about and prepare for how you’re going to die.

Last Medical Review: 01/14/2014
Last Revised: 02/06/2014