Quality of Life

Quality of Life: Making Your Own Health Care Choices

How do you balance quality of life with medical care? Sometimes illnesses and the treatments can cause pain, have side effects and reduce the ability to care for yourself. When facing a life-threatening injury or illness, being comfortable and at home are the most important thing for some people. They want to focus on the quality of their life instead of ways to make it longer, and don’t want to be kept alive by machines. Other people may want to be kept alive as long as possible, even if it means needing machines to help them live longer. It’s important to know that it’s okay if your thoughts change over time, as your health changes.

Think about what may be important to you in the event of a life- threatening injury or illness. These conditions are examples of things that can reduce quality of life for those who are very sick or seriously injured:

  • Being in a coma and not able to wake up or talk to family and friends
  • Not being able to live without being hooked up to machines
  • Not being able to think clearly or make my own decisions
  • Not being able to control my bladder or bowels
  • Not being able to feed, bathe or take care of myself
  • Being in severe pain almost all the time and needing medications that make me think less clearly, and there being little chance that this will improve
  • Having other severe symptoms almost all the time; for example, nausea or difficulty breathing, and there being little chance that this will improve
  • Needing to live in a nursing home or assisted care facility
  • Being a financial burden on my loved ones
  • I would do a trial for new treatments but don’t want to stay on treatments if they’re not working.
  • I’m willing to live through all these things for a chance of living longer.

As you think about these choices, remember to share them with the person(s) you select to be your health care surrogate. The more your health care surrogate knows about your wishes, the easier it will be for them to honor your wishes.

Download our designation of health care surrogate and living will form in English and Spanish. You can also download our free Guide to Advance Directives or request a free printed version by completing the form on the main Advance Directives page.