End of Life: Five Critical Questions Every Person Needs to Answer

  For example, if you had to (and could) choose, would you prefer to die in bed at home, or in the hospital? There is no wrong answer. It’s only wrong if no one knows your answer, and no one is willing to advocate for you. Those questions are at the heart of Engage With Grace an online, viral movement that aims to encourage  people to better understand, communicate, and have honored their end-of-life wishes

And since we launched more than three years ago, we’ve seen that once this conversation does get started, once we share these thoughts with each other, then the lawyers, the affidavits, the system that intervenes to bowl over our intent…it stops being intimidating; we become empowered. Since Engage with Grace went viral, we’ve heard countless stories from individuals and families, stories about how this one conversation changed everything about their experience. You die only once. Die the way you want. Make sure your loved ones get that same gift.  

Take a Passionate Approach

Success – in both work and life – requires a ferociously passionate approach. To have that consistency and persistence, you have to find joy and love in what you do, to wake up every day to add value to the world around us. I was lucky enough to have been exposed to that philosophy as a child – raised by a family that is all about taking on challenges and making a difference.

What’s my obsession? What gets me out of bed all fired up to make a difference every morning? What wakes me up in a cold sweat if I feel I haven’t been doing enough?  Helping folks get happy and get healthy – in every way, across all aspects of their life.  In the healthcare space we have this singular focus on traditional health factors – like your blood pressure or if you have diabetes. And yes, of course those kinds of things matter – but so too does your relationship with your partner, the way you feel at work, or caring for someone who is ill…maybe even very ill.  If we want to reverse the trends wreaking havoc on our economy we need to meet people where they are – right smack dab in the middle of the messy reality that is their life – take a hold of their hand, support them in a way that resonates, in a way that is sustainable, and walk with them to a better place.  Technology – artfully applied – can help us do that in a way that is warm and authentic – and invaluable in redefining the way we support all aspects of life – including the end of it.

Making a Difference

The personal experience my family went through with my sister-in-law Za led to the launch of Engage with Grace and it’s been heartwarming to see how people are inspired to act around as sensitive a topic as end-of-life planning. Engage with Grace and its five questions around end-of-life preferences have been included in textbooks and in nurse training curricula, and used in palliative care settings, by ICU physicians, and by countless mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons. Over a thousand  people have stored their responses to these questions securely on the Engage with Grace website, and probably millions have been exposed to the concept through TEDMED, an annual blog rally, and more. The Boston Business Journal gave Engage with Grace the “Champions of Healthcare” award, and in 2009 Engage with Grace has been added as a top phrase to the health care lexicon.

Engage with Grace has also made a personal impact on people who use it, as the stories posted to our website illustrate.

What Questions Should People Be Asking – and Answering?

We came up with questions we want patients to answer, not ask. Our mission is to ensure that every single one of us is prepared to answer the five questions from "The One Slide" project linked to below. They should be able to answer them for themselves and for their loved ones – and be willing to advocate for these preferences no matter what.

Helpful Resources

We are honored to be part of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC), which launched in October of 2011. C-TAC is a group of passionate, connected people representing the world of health care policy, public engagement, professional education, and clinical models who are dedicated to:

  • Protecting human dignity
  • Ensuring access to high-quality care
  • Providing continuity, coordination, and comprehensiveness
  • Ensuring well-prepared, empowered individuals and families
  • Customizing care to reflect patient preferences
  • Developing and supporting skilled, compassionate, and responsive providers

We also recommend the following resources:

Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MDCopyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.
Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD Last Annual Review Date: 2011-09-19

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