Talking With Your Health-care Provider About Your Serious Illness

Are you living with a serious illness? 


Serious illnesses can include diseases such as cancer, dementia, motor–neuron disease, end-stage kidney or lung disease, heart disease and stroke.


Living with a serious illness is associated with ups and downs of increased feeling of tiredness, pain, nausea, or shortness of breath. You often feel that you are less able to do the things that you used to in the past.


Having a conversation with your health-care provider about the expected progress of your illness, your values, fears, and goals, and what you want for health care will help you get the care that is aligned with your wishes.


Research shows that people living with a serious illness who think through what is important to them and what their wishes are often feel less anxious, more at peace, and more in control of their situation.

How to prepare for a conversation with your health-care provider about your illness?

Think about:

  • What would you like to know about your illness?
  • What kind of information would help you make decisions about your future?
  • What is most important for you to have a good quality of life?
  • What are you afraid of about your illness?
  • What kinds of medical care do you not want?
  • What do you think it would be like to share these thoughts with your family?
  • Who would you want to make health-care decisions for you, if you cannot speak for yourself? 


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Do you have an appointment with your doctor to discuss your illness and your care?


Don’t forget to bring with you:

1. A list of your potential Temporary Substitute Decision Makers,

2. A copy of your Representation Agreement, if you have one,

3. A copy of your Advance Directive, if you have one.

Resources for health-care providers  


BC Centre for Palliative Care has a program that train and support health care providers to have quality conversations with their patients living with a serious illness about the person’s illness, their goals and wishes, and planning for the future when their illness is serious but stable. 

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