How do you try to live out your life in the best possible way?
That’s a tough question to answer, but we’ve assembled a group of leading experts and resources to help you. Frankly, it can be confusing and scary to think about your final years. But failing to make your preferences clear can leave your loved ones guessing, adding stress to a time that could be filled with thoughts about the full life you lived. You see the links above? (Choices, Pathway, Change, At the End) Click through those: they’ll provide answers to many of your questions, and present issues that many people may have never considered.
If you want even more information, check out an extensive collection of videos here. We have selected some of the most relevant for this site to start the conversation. We’re happy to bring this to you, and we hope you find it helpful.
This project is part of WITF’s Transforming Health, and was produced in collaboration with Dickinson College Professor Jim Hoefler. His work was funded by Dickinson College with additional support from the The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Transforming Health is funded by Penn State Health and WellSpan Health.
Professor Hoefler offers his thanks to the Dickinson (’17) students in his Policy Management senior seminar for their thoughtful review and feedback on this site: Mark Adams, Stephanie Applegate, Seth Danels, Will Hornsby, Isabel Lamb, Kyle Santorine, Wes Smith, Cora Swanson, Polly Terzian, and Sophie Waine.
This section should help you think a little more deeply about your choices. Even medical professionals change their mind about their own path at the end of life! Here, you’ll learn from two other experts in the field about their personal preferences, but also what informed them.
It isn’t so much about your decision (though that’s certainly worth noting), but how you reached it. Have you ranked your priorities? Do you want to live in pain if it means more time on Earth? Or do you want a painless, quiet exit? Those are all choices that will inform your ultimate decision.
Figuring out a path for your last years can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. If you break it down into steps, you can tailor your decisions to your priorities, and will be able to at least provide a roadmap that will provide answers for your family.
There are a wide variety of options – perhaps more than you thought. And we can’t promise to cover them all here. But on this page you will see two videos – hospice and palliative care. The concepts aren’t mutually exclusive, but these videos offer a brief introduction into each.
As a Greek philosopher once said, the only constant in life is change.
That goes for the end of life as well. You or your loved one might respond better than expected to treatment, or they may struggle to get back to where they once were. And their wishes may change as well. All of this can require frequent adjustments. That’s normal, and to be expected.
Embrace the change, and know that you’re doing all you can to match your loved one’s wishes. Or in your own case, think about how you might want to change your plan in the event your condition changes.
In the second video on this page, you will also learn about how to handle family conflicts.
This is about the loss of a loved one.
When the end arrives, it will be time to grieve.
Here, you can learn more about that process. How will you remember them? How will you carry that memory forward while also restoring a sense of normalcy to your daily life? Answers to those questions likely will not come immediately, but by thinking about it now, you can better prepare.
This is all about preparation, so that in an already stressful time, you’re able to focus on yourself and the person you love.
Few of us are comfortable talking about death. In fact - according to a Pew Research survey –the majority of Americans do not have their end-of-life wishes in writing..
What choices will you make as the end approaches?
Answering that question is a challenge that few of us want to confront.
Just thinking about it can bring overwhelming emotions to the surface.
Still, many have seen a loved one reach their final days.
Maybe it is time to start thinking about how you would handle it.
As part of Transforming Health's special project Finding Peace, Cumberland County's Katie Perella-Carvalhaes tells the story of her first husband's life.
When is the last time you had a conversation about your end-of-life wishes? If you're like many, the answer may be never.
On HealthSmart: Finding Peace we talk about attitudes towards mortality and how have they changed over time. Families bravely share their stories of love and loss. Experts from across the country and right here in Central Pennsylvania offer advice about end-of-life concerns.
Through it all we'll attempt to find peace with a topic that's hard for so many.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the majority of Americans say it's extremely important to them that their families are not burdened by tough decisions at the end of life. But about the same number have not communicated their end-of-life wishes.
A recent Smart Talk focused on the issue that affects us all, but doesn't get the kind of attention it deserves.
Appearing on the program are Dr. Jim Hoefler, a professor at Dickinson College, who has written extensively about end-of-life issues, Dr. Vipul Bhatia, Medical Director of Post-Acute Services, Wellspan Health, Keira McGuire, the producer of WITF's Health Smart and Ben Allen, WITF's Transforming Health reporter. We will also speak with a family who have faced these difficult decisions.
Your local health provider can provide valuable guidance on these issues and make referrals for grief support
Bereavement and Grief Support
Bereavement Camps for Youth
Funeral Homes can make valuable referrals for grief support and sometimes have trained bereavement experts on staff