End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Advance Directive

April 16: The Day Our Country Talks About Advance Planning

Planning a vacation is fun. Planning a wedding is exciting. Planning a meeting is important. Planning for your future healthcare is critical, which is why Compassion & Choices makes such a big deal out of National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD).

Every April 16, a coalition of more than 100 national organizations mobilizes to talk to as many Americans as possible about getting their healthcare wishes written down and expressing those wishes to their family, loved ones and healthcare providers. That means making sure you have an advance directive, which includes a living will (describing the treatment you want) and a durable power of attorney (designating the person who will speak for you) in the event that you are sick and cannot speak for yourself. Compassion & Choices has the tools you need to get your advance planning process started. Visit our website today by clicking here. More

National Healthcare Decisions Day around the web

DNR: A Supporter’s Story


Mr. Demarest powerfully exposes how the medical system  disregards the most thorough end-of-life plans with  its default mode to provide treatment – no matter the  patient’s circumstances and wishes.

The stories Mr. Demarest and others shared complement our national campaign to stop this tragedy and raise awareness to ensure that someday we’ll all be allowed to die with peace and dignity.

My father prided himself on doing everything right, by planning everything in advance. By the time he was in his 70s and I was in my 30s, he had shown me where he kept the key to his filing cabinet and where I could find his stash of silver coins. He told me about his will. And his living will.

I watched as Pop declined from a spry 85-year old who won sailing races on Glen Wild Lake and traveled to China and all over the United States to run his business, to a 95-year old who hobbled around, first with a couple of canes, then a walker, and finally in a wheelchair, while his wife Eileen ran the business.

During this decline, we discussed his living will more than once. When the time came, there were to be no heroic measures. There were to be no feeding tubes and no respirators, no CPR and no defibrillation. We neglected to discuss the most important part of his living will. Under just what circumstances were there to be no heroic measures? Did he believe at the age of 95, that he had reached that point? I didn’t ask, nor did I look at a copy of the living will. Everything seemed to be far off in the future, and I lived 3,000 miles away. His end-of-life plans were the responsibility of his wife, Eileen.

A few days before Pop’s 96th birthday, he and Eileen planned to go out to dinner with friends. Two of the friends, Jane and Angie, wheeled Pop out of the house and transferred him into the car. Almost immediately, he said, “I want to go home,” started to get out of the car, and slumped back into the seat, not moving. Angie interpreted his statement to mean I want to go to Heaven, and said to Pop, “it’s all right, you can go.”

Jane called 911. Pop’s house was on a long, hilly, twisty one-lane road,. and there was no expectation that emergency personnel would arrive quickly, A few neighbors came over until there were a half dozen people standing in the driveway while the minutes ticked by with Pop, or rather his dead body, sitting in the front seat of the car. During these ten minutes waiting for help, any possibility that Pop, not breathing, could survive slipped away

When the policeman arrived, he moved the body from the car to the driveway and began administering CPR. The ambulance arrived with the EMT, who continued the CPR and then used the defibrillator, applying the paddles and the electric shock to Pop’s chest. They loaded Pop’s body into the ambulance, still doing CPR, and everybody followed to the hospital where he was officially pronounced dead.

I can’t blame Eileen or Pop’s friends and neighbors for not attempting CPR, because I don’t know the wording of Pop’s living will. I’m sure that the police and the EMT followed the rules by attempting CPR and defibrillation. I’m also sure that my father never would have wanted people pounding on his dead body for more than a half hour, and that’s what happened.

At the hospital, Jane asked the EMT about the CPR and defibrillation. “Why did you do this?”

“It’s for the widow.”

– Harry Demarest

Talking Turkey Over Turkey

The holiday season is coming, and with it dinners and get-togethers with family and loved ones. Yes, you guessed it: It’s the perfect time to sit down and talk about your end-of-life wishes.

Seriously. With siblings and multiple generations united, conditions are ideal to talk turkey about an important issue we all will face. Need to get Mom or Dad to discuss their end-of-life preferences? Trying to get your adult children to listen to your thoughts about dying? You’ll find that they are surprisingly receptive at family gatherings. How do you get the conversation started?

After many attempts to get family members engaged, one Compassion & Choices client set her Thanksgiving table with advance directive forms at every place setting and announced, “Nobody gets dinner until these Are filled out.” Now that’s some tough turkey. Your best approach is the one that suits you and those around you. And while the paperwork is important, the essential thing is to get the conversation going!

1.  How do you feel about life support if:

  • you have a terminal illness?
  • you’re in a permanent coma?
  • you have an irreversible chronic illness like Alzheimer’s disease?

2.  Do you always want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? About your condition? About treatment options and their odds of success? And what success means for quality of life?

3.  What will be important to you when you are dying? No pain? Hold on as long as possible? Family members present? What are your priorities?

4.  Would you want to be placed in a nursing home if your condition warranted?

Are you good to go?

We have the tools you need to guide your conversation and document the results. They’re all in our Good-to-Go Toolkit, and they’re all free:

  • A values worksheet to structure your decision-making.
  • Advance directive forms for every state.
  • An optional dementia provision – that only Compassion & Choices offers.
  • Contract rider for assisted-living facilities contracts. Use this to ensure your new home intends respects your choices.
  • Visit tiny.cc./advance-directive
  • Call 800.247.7421 to get info by mail or to speak to one of our consultants.

Conversation Starters

Here are some ways to get the conversation going.

“I want to be certain you guys know what I would want if I ever get seriously ill or can’t speak for myself. What do you think I would want? What would you say to the doctors for me? What would you want me to say for you?”

“My doctor/attorney/pastor says I need to go over my advance directive with you.”

“If one of us ever had to make decisions about your treatment because you couldn’t, it would be much easier if we knew what you really want.”

Download and Print These Valuable Tools

Talking Turkey Conversation Starter

This one-page conversation starter will help you get the ball rolling at your next family gathering.


Fall Magazine and Annual Report

Download the full Fall Magazine and Annual Report here for the full text of Talking Turkey and much more.


Elder Abuse – A National Tragedy

By Ashley Carson Cottingham
National Field Director

On June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we take time to acknowledge that an estimated 2.1 million older Americans fall victim to elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation each year. At Compassion & Choices we work diligently to protect older adults by upholding their rights at the end of life, sometimes when they are no longer able to speak for themselves. And this year we became proud members of the Elder Justice Coalition in Washington, D.C.

Elder abuse occurs on a regular basis, affecting some of the most vulnerable members of our society. What’s even worse is that for every reported case of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, experts believe there are five that go unreported. We must put an end to it.

Our work has exposed a form of elder abuse that is rarely discussed. It occurs when an older adult’s expressed wishes at the end of life are ignored, and as a result they are subjected to unwanted and invasive medical treatment. We believe this unwanted treatment absolutely constitutes elder abuse. More