Health Library

The Health Library is a collection of health and wellness resources created for learning and accessibility. Select a topic below for related health information or search for a topic in the search bar for more information on other medical conditions.

Hospice and Palliative Medicine

  • A living will is a type of advance directive that documents your wishes about end-of-life medical treatment, including life support, if you become unable to speak for yourself. In most cases, a living will and durable power of attorney for health...

  • Complications that can develop from grieving include depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and physical illness. If you or someone you know experiences any of the following problems, contact a doctor or mental health professional for counseling, medicine, or both. Depression Depression is...

  • Just as your body physically prepares for death, you must prepare emotionally and mentally also. As death approaches, you may become less interested in the outside world and the specific details of daily life, such as the date or time. You may turn more inward and be less socially involved with others. You may want...

  • Discusses role of health care agent if you can't make healthcare decisions for yourself. Covers medical power of attorney and living will. Includes link to checklist for writing an advance directive.

  • Learn how advance directives let others know your care preferences when you can't speak for yourself.

  • Learn more about what questions to keep asking—as your treatment and preferences change.

  • It's common to have a lot of questions if you're thinking about hospice. Knowing more may help.

  • It can be hard to know which treatments you may or may not want near the end of life. Learning more can help.

  • Being a health care agent is an important job. Here are tips for thinking about who might be the best person for the job.

  • Let others, including your health care team, support you so you can grieve in your own way, when you're ready.

  • Provides links to information about advance care planning. Includes links on advance directives, palliative care and hospice, finding a health care agent, and dealing with grief or dementia.

  • Introduction Donating one or more of your organs after your death can help save another person's life. Over 100,000 people in the United States are now waiting for the gift of an organ to become available for an organ transplant. Most people can be organ donors. If you are interested in donating organs or...

  • Introduction More than 100,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ to become available for a transplant that can save their lives. Many organ donors are living donors. How can you be a living organ donor? Most people can be organ donors. Many people choose to donate an organ upon their...

  • Dorothy was in her late 80s and had been losing her balance a lot. Her son thought it was time for her to move into a nursing home. Her daughter wanted her to go into an assisted-living facility. Dorothy just wanted to stay in her own home. The three of them argued for months about this. In the meantime, Dorothy fell...

  • How does your ICD help you? Your ICD can save your life. Your ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) is always checking your heart rate and rhythm. If the ICD detects a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm, it tries to slow the rhythm back to normal using electrical pulses. If the dangerous rhythm doesn't...

  • When a child has a serious illness, the time may come when a cure isn't possible, or when treatment to help the child live longer is not working. Hearing that a child will die causes feelings of deep pain, loss, and helplessness in parents—and in...

  • Learn how meeting your spiritual needs can help you cope with cancer.

  • It's hard to have good days when being sick makes you feel sad, lonely, uncomfortable, or scared. Your quality of life can suffer, not just in your body, but also in your mind and spirit. Palliative (say "PAL-lee-uh-tiv") care is the field of medicine that helps give you more good days by providing care for those...

  • What is spirituality? Across cultures and religions, people tend to their spiritual wellness in countless ways. In the most basic sense, spirituality is about connecting with what's meaningful to you in a way that lightens or enriches your spirit. While there are many ways to describe it, most experts agree that...

  • Prayer is part of the world's oldest faith traditions and cultures. For many people around the world, prayer has a place in their daily lives. It is how they connect with God, a higher power, inner strength, or spiritual energy. Prayer can be a...

  • Worry and anxiety can develop after a major loss. Anxiety is a general feeling of tenseness or uneasiness. You may feel generally anxious (called free-floating anxiety). Anxiety can cause physical symptoms, such as an upset stomach or a headache. Anxiety can also cause you to act in ways that are unusual for you, such...

  • It is common to feel some kind of guilt or regret after losing a loved one, an opportunity, or a valued way of life. If you find yourself feeling guilty about a past action or inaction, set aside time to think about your feelings and work through...

  • Emotional development Consider your child's age and emotional development so that you can explain loss and death in a way that he or she will understand. Children younger than 2 years of age cannot express in words what is going on in their lives. You can reassure the child by holding and cuddling him...

  • A major loss can make you question your beliefs. Sadness, anger, guilt, hopelessness—all these emotions can make you question everything you once believed about life, death, and suffering. Some people are able to find comfort, courage, and hope from their beliefs. But if you're like a lot of people, you just feel...

  • After a major loss, you may feel insecure and unsure about yourself. Maintaining relationships may be a struggle at this time. You may have a difficult time making decisions, paying attention to what others are saying, or taking care of your personal responsibilities. Later, you may not remember some of the events...

  • Funerals and memorial services allow the grieving family and friends time to reminisce about the life of their loved one. A funeral or memorial service can be a time not only for grieving but also for healing and celebrating life. A funeral or...

  • Sadness and yearning for a loved one, an object, or a way of life you have lost are the most common and expected feelings that occur after any loss. Probably the best thing you can do to cope with your sadness and yearning is to talk about how you...

  • Grief counseling is short term and focuses on working through the grieving process related to a major loss. Grief counseling is also called bereavement counseling. The term "bereavement" usually is used only when referring to the loss of a person through death. Grief counseling typically has four components...

  • The loss of someone special translates into many separate losses in a person's life. Multiple losses occur when a person loses: A partner. Loss of a partner usually also means the loss of a constant companion. Loss of a partner can also cause financial hardship, and sometimes a loss of standing or...

  • Know what is normal for your teen's age group. As teens grow and develop, they change the way they think about and express grief. Although each teen is different, there are some expected changes in thinking that occur during the early, middle, and late teenage years. Listen and watch for opportunities. If you listen...

  • There is no definite point in time or a list of symptoms that define unresolved grief. Unresolved grief lasts longer than usual for a person's social circle or cultural background. It may also be used to describe grief that does not go away or...

  • Discusses decisions related to care near the end of life. Discusses choosing where and what kind of care you want. Covers who will make decisions if you can't. Info on advance directives and need for durable power of attorney.

  • Older adults often have many major losses within a short period of time. For example, an older adult who loses a partner may suffer many losses, including financial security, his or her best friend, and social contacts. The natural aging process brings many losses, such as loss of independence and physical strength...

  • Even if your family is involved in helping you make medical treatment decisions, it is still important to choose one person to be your health care agent. If you want one family member to be able to make medical treatment decisions for you, appoint...

  • Once you make the decision to seek hospice care, make your search easier by using this checklist to find out about different programs. Add to it as you think of items that are important to you, and cross off those items that are not useful. Make a copy of this checklist for each program that you plan to consider. Have...

  • A living will and a medical power of attorney are types of advance directives. These forms describe the kinds of medical care you want to receive if you're badly hurt or have a serious illness that keeps you from saying what you want. A medical...

  • Discusses basic types of advance directives. Covers living will and medical power of attorney to appoint a health care agent. Explains when and why advance directive is needed. Lists steps in preparing one.

  • Discusses hospice care, which includes medical, emotional, and spiritual care for people who are in the last stages of a serious illness. Guides through decision to seek hospice care. Covers how to choose a program. Covers end-of-life legal issues.

  • Grief is a normal and healthy reaction that occurs when you lose someone or something important. Although it is possible to delay or postpone grieving, it is not possible to avoid grieving altogether. Grief will subside over time. However, the grieving process does not happen in a step-by-step or orderly fashion. Give...

  • Children see loss and death in different ways as they grow and develop. Tailor your help according to your child's age and emotional development. How you learned to deal with loss will affect how you help your child. Think about what helped you when you lost something as a child. Don't try to keep grieving a private...

  • A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or another dementia often raises some important legal and financial issues for the future. The person with dementia should be involved in these decisions as long as he or she is able and willing to be involved....

  • What is grief? Grief is a natural response to the loss of someone or something very important to you. The loss may cause sadness and may cause you to think of very little else besides the loss. The words sorrow and heartache are often used to describe feelings of grief. Anticipatory grief is grief that strikes in...

  • People cope with the loss of a loved one in different ways. Most people who experience grief will cope well. Others will have severe grief and may need treatment. There are many things that can affect the grief process of someone who has lost a loved one to cancer. They include: The personality of the person who is...

  • Religious and spiritual values are important to patients coping with cancer. Studies have shown that religious and spiritual values are important to Americans. Most American adults say that they believe in God and that their religious beliefs affect how they live their lives. However, people have different ideas about...

  • The end of life may be months, weeks, days, or hours. It is a time when many decisions about treatment and care are made for patients with cancer. It is important for families and healthcare providers to know the patient's wishes ahead of time and to talk with the patient openly about end-of-life plans. This will...

  • When you learn you have advanced cancer, you're faced with many decisions about your end-of-life care. Talking about these decisions early can make it easier on you and your family later. The following are some questions you may want to think about: What's important to you during this time? Is it most...

  • Focuses on palliative care as a holistic—body, mind, spirit—approach to dealing with serious illness. Explains that palliative care team guides talks about treatment, pain management, hospice care, family needs, and legal issues.

  • Guides through decision to stop treatment that can prolong your life. Discusses choosing what kind of care you want. Covers factors that may affect your decision, such as type of illness. Includes an interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • When your loved one is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, it is important to keep communication as clear and direct as possible. Work at keeping the lines of communication open with your loved one, with his or her doctor, and with your family. Recognize your family's style of communication. How did your family...

  • Medicare is a health insurance program for people 65 years of age and older, for some people younger than 65 who have disabilities, and for people with long-term (chronic) kidney failure treated with dialysis or a transplant. Medicare is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of the United...

  • Guides through decision to receive CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and mechanical ventilation. Describes the procedures and discusses risks and benefits of each. Includes interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • Pain and other symptoms related to your life-limiting illness almost always can be managed effectively. Talk to your doctor and family about the symptoms you are experiencing. Your family is an important link between you and your doctor. Have a...

  • Guides through decision to receive artificial hydration and nutrition if you have a life-threatening or terminal illness. Describes various feeding-tube methods. Discusses benefits and risks. Includes interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • Guides through decision to stop kidney dialysis for kidney failure. Covers key factors in decision. Covers benefits and risks. Discusses what happens after dialysis is stopped. Offers interactive tool to help you make your decision.

  • Physician-assisted death refers to a practice by which physicians provide the means for a person to voluntarily cause his or her own death. This is usually done by prescribing lethal doses of medicine. Although indirectly participating in the person's death, the physician does not directly cause the death. Only a few...

  • Kidney transplantation is the best way known to save a person's life after he or she develops kidney failure. In the past, kidneys were only taken from living close relatives or from people who had recently died. Transplants from living donors have a better chance of success than those from deceased donors. Also...

  • These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions. Martha, age 91: I have been in and out of the hospital for serious heart and breathing problems for many months. I feel like my heart is not going to last much...

  • Palliative care is medical care that provides an extra layer of support for people who have serious and chronic illnesses. With palliative care, you have the help of a medical team who are experts in managing treatment side effects such as pain,...

  • Your palliative care team may include a spiritual advisor or chaplain. Spiritual advisors can help you with questions that do not have clear answers. It does not matter what your spirituality or religion is. Your beliefs will be honored and respected. You may want to talk to a spiritual advisor about: The meaning of...

  • Palliative care can help you live well. Even when the end of your life is near, you can still try to live as well as possible. Remember to do the things that you love. For example, if you love to garden, you may still be able to garden if you do not overdo it. Talk with your palliative care provider about what you feel...

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