Beginning the Conversation about death, dying & end-of-life care
Terminal illness, natural aging, accidents and other events that lead to loss are among the hardest issues
to discuss and accept. Years ago, people died at home, usually after a short illness, and were attended by
family members and the family physician. Now, the dying process is more complex, often preceded by
long periods of chronic illness, hospitalization and aggressive treatment. Although we have been able to
treat or cure many of the illnesses that were previously fatal, we ultimately cannot prevent death and
always face the challenge of our mortality.
What we can do, however, is to take actions that address our fears of death and dying. We can develop
health care systems and supports for dying individuals, their families and loved ones as death becomes
imminent. We can work to educate providers, policy makers and ourselves on what is needed to provide
the most compassionate, individualized and supportive end-of-life care.
This booklet is designed to provide basic information about some of the terms and services related to
care at the end of life. As these issues have gained public attention, a whole new vocabulary has evolved
that is often confusing and misunderstood. This guide answers ten of the most commonly asked
questions about end-of-life care. It also offers basic information to help individuals make informed
choices about end-of-life care for themselves and their loved ones.