The starting point for your end-of-life plan is your own values and priorities. What’s important to you? Picture yourself in an end-of-life situation. What sort of care would you want? Now picture a situation that leaves you unable to care for or speak for yourself. What’s most important to you in that kind of scenario? What do you not want to happen?

As You Picture a Few General Situations, Consider:

  • Your Personal Beliefs and Values. How do your spiritual or religious beliefs affect your attitudes about terminal diseases, treatment decisions, or death and dying? Would you want life-sustaining treatments no matter the circumstance, or do you believe that when there is no hope of recovery, natural death should be allowed?
  • Quality-of-Life Concerns. What basic abilities are important to you in order to feel you would want to continue living? For example, do you feel you must be able to recognize loved ones or communicate with others?
  • Types of Life-Sustaining Treatments. Are there specific procedures or treatments you would want or definitely not want if you were diagnosed with a terminal condition?
  • Your Support Network. Is there a particular doctor you want to help your family direct your care? Is there anyone you do not want involved in your healthcare decisions?

The Advance Planning Toolkit has a Values Worksheet (page 15) with more questions to help you. You’ll also benefit by letting others know your thoughts. Talking with loved ones about end-of-life issues can lead to important discoveries and deeper connections. Speaking to your doctor can give you a feeling of authority over your healthcare decisions. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider looking for a new doctor.

NEXT: Putting Priorities On Paper