End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

Advance Directive

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

Tell Everyone You’re Good to Go

Dear friends,

Hindsight is always 20/20. But I still feel utterly duped by the medical establishment for what happened to my father, Ted Hamann.

At age 73, he went into his local hospital for a routine surgical procedure. He came out of it doing as well as expected, but six hours later he was in an ambulance on a 75-mile mad dash to Boston due to a stroke.

Doctors there gave us nothing but optimistic predictions about how Dad would respond to surgery. And we felt hopeful afterwards, when he was discharged to rehab to learn to walk, talk and swallow again.

Unfortunately, he had another stroke—this one even more debilitating. Once again, we were steered toward treatment as the only logical and responsible option. We were skeptical, so at every turn we gave doctors my father’s DNR and reminded them that he wanted no extraordinary measures or aggressive treatment of any kind. More

“Make Your Plan” Urges End-of-Life Care Advocacy Organization

by Compassion & Choices Staff
April 10, 2013

National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16th

Portland, OR – With only one in four Americans stating their end-of-life care decisions before they are incapacitated, Compassion & Choices today asked all Americans to “Make Your Plan” for National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), April 16. The importance of planning ahead was evident in the February 6 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association, which reported that 26% of Medicare beneficiaries spent part of their last month of life in an intensive care unit — an increase from a decade ago.

The organization offers resources free of charge, including advance directive forms for every state and tools to stimulate discussion and aid decision-making. Forms can be downloaded at compassionandchoices.org or ordered by phone at 800.247.7421.

Compassion & Choices also announced the availability of exclusive content: a dementia provision for advance directives. According to a report released last month by the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s deaths continue to rise — increasing 68 percent from 2000-2010. The new provision can be added to any advance directive or living will to advise physicians and family of the wishes of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

President Barbara Coombs Lee explained why the dementia provision is so important. “Most advance directives take effect only when a person is unable to make healthcare decisions and is either ‘permanently unconscious’ or ‘terminally ill,’” she said. “But what of the situation in which a person suffers from severe dementia but is neither unconscious nor dying? Without this provision in advance directives, families and doctors have no sure guide for the care of the estimated 450,000 people who will die this year with Alzheimer’s.”

Compassion & Choices has launched a social media campaign featuring bold graphics and the taglines “Ask me” and “Tell me” to prompt discussion of advance care planning, sharing the graphics from its Facebook page: facebook.com/CompassionandChoices.

Completing advance directives is the first step toward patients receiving the care they want – and only the care they want. Compassion & Choices is conducting a national campaign to stop unwanted medical treatment so that healthcare providers and institutions take all steps to honor patients’ wishes. The campaign petition can be found here: tinyurl.com/umt-petition

For more information please visit www.compassionandchoices.org

Compassion & Choices is a nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. We support, educate and advocate.

How to Develop Effective End-of-Life Plans

by Philip Moeller
U.S. News & World Report
February 26, 2013

Retaining control over life decisions and maintaining dignity as the end of life approaches are top priorities for nearly everyone. These objectives can be achieved by good planning and the preparation of the proper directives under your state’s laws. These safeguards have been greatly improved in many states in recent years. Still, experts say, few seniors have the right tools to make sure their end-of-life wishes are followed by family members and caregivers.

People often think of such matters only when they or a family member are seriously ill. But if a stroke, dementia, or another incapacitating event occurs, it may be too late. If people cannot make decisions for themselves and do not have directives or a power of attorney in place, decisions may be made for them that they would never have agreed with if they had been able to decide. More