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Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
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Colorectal Cancer: Nearing End Of LIfe


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While it may be painful to think about, it is inevitable that at some point we all die. As wonderful as modern medicine is at prolonging life, it has not yet been able to overcome death. Please do not take this to mean that we suggest you give up hope. No matter how certain things seem, you can still have joy in your life. There is always reason to hope. 

Your choice

Just as you have control over how you live, you also have the ability to control the last period of your life.

As a practical matter, it is your choice whether to keep trying to eliminate your disease, to let go and seek the fullest life available in your circumstances, or to choose an in-between path. It is also your choice how much of your personal and financial resources you are willing to spend and for how long. 

It is even your choice how to make the decision: whether on your own, in consultation with family and friends, your clergyman, and/or in consultation with your medical team. Ultimately, we are talking about your life. The final decision is yours.

What care you want

Even at an end stage, you are entitled to good medical care and attention from your health care team.  

Part of your decision is what medical care you do or do not want.  Take the time to sort through what is important to you now. Think about your values and what is important to you. For instance, is quality of life more important then length of life? Is it important that you keep your head clear?  What are the important relationships, activities or other things that are important to you?

Once you know what you want, be assertive. Speak up.

You can assure your desires will be satisfied if you become unable to speak for yourself by executing the legal documents generally known as Advance Directives.  They are easy to complete and are free.  

Peace of mind comes with taking care of the legal documents and discussions that accompany them to assure that your wishes control - even if you become physically or mentally unable to speak for yourself.  

Whatever you decide, you can change your mind as often as you desire. 

NOTE: The sooner you tell your doctor(s) about your priorities, the better.

Continuing medical care

If you want continuing medical care, in addition to providing treatment, your doctor can help control both physical and emotional symptoms. If your doctor isn't aggressive about reducing or eliminating pain, bring in a doctor who will provide such care.

Do not fear becoming addicted to pain medication. It is not common in this situation. To learn how to get the medical care you need, see Managing Your Medical Care.

Your environment

Think about how the space in which you spend these days looks, sounds and smells. This is an opportunity to create the space you've dreamed of.

Leaving early

If you want to leave the planet before nature takes its course, look at the symptoms of depression to see if you are depressed. Death is a permanent solution to what could be a temporary condition.  Also speak with your doctor. Unless you live in a state which permits assisted suicide, he or she cannot help to that extent, but he or she may be able to help in other ways.. As an alternative, while we do not recommend it, there is also the possibility of assisted suicide abroad and ending your own life.

Planning Ahead

If you haven't already, it is wise to get your affairs in order now. At the least, everyone should have a Will.

If you have made plans, review them to be sure they reflect your current wishes and financial situation.

If you want to save your heirs unnecessary expense and stress, consider pre-planning your funeral. Pre-planning is different than pre-paying.

Ethical Will

Consider putting together a document known as an Ethical Will. It passes on to your heirs information they should know such as your family history, what you learned in your lifetime, and whatever else is important to you. You can create this legacy in whatever way is easiest for you - for instance, by writing a letter, or by putting together a scrap book with annotations.  

Visitation from a Partner

If you are part of an unmarried couple (heterosexual or homosexual), take steps now to assure your partner will be able to visit if you end up in a healthcare facility. While hospitals can no longer bar people because of their relationship or non-relationship to the patient, be sure your doctor and health care facility know who you want to be permitted to visit. 

For additional information, click on the following links: 

NOTE: Partnership For Caring provides legal counseling and information on end-of-life decisions. Tel.: 800-658-8898, Spanish helpline: 877-658-8896, 202-296-8071 
Website: offsite linkE-mail: caringinfo at nhpco dot org

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