Planning for the Future with COPD | American Lung Association

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Planning for the Future with COPD

Being diagnosed with a chronic disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can make you and your caregivers think about uncomfortable topics you may not have explored before, including long-term, palliative and even hospice care. Thinking through these potential situations now and discussing your wishes with your loved ones helps ensure that you will get the care you want in the future.

Getting the Care You Need

Palliative or supportive care is aimed at making you more comfortable and improving your quality of life. This type of care can refer to medications that relieve your physical and emotional symptoms, care coordination and life-planning.

Sometimes people confuse palliative care with hospice care. Hospice care is given at the end-of-life while palliative care is appropriate at any stage of your disease. Talk to your doctor about any physical or emotional issues you experience and you can work together to get the supportive care you need while planning for the care you want in the future.

Points for Discussion

There may come a time when you cannot communicate your wishes. For this reason, it is important to discuss them ahead of time with your family and fill out the appropriate paperwork (advance directives) as early as possible. The earlier you discuss what you want, the less stressful it will be for you and your family when it comes time to make potentially difficult decisions. Use the topics below as guidelines for talking to your caregivers and doctors about end-of-life care.

Getting Paperwork in Order

  • Put your financial records in order and store them all in one place (includes account numbers, investments, credit cards, loads, deeds and more)
  • Draft your will
  • Create an advance directive (also called a living will). An advance directive outlines your end-of-life medical care choices.
  • Select a power of attorney. A power of attorney designates someone you know and trust to make healthcare and financial decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. They can be two different people or the same person.

End-of-Life Care

End-of-life care wishes will be spelled out in a legal document called an advance directive. Here are some examples of topics you will be asked to make decisions about:

  • Where do you want to receive end-of-life care? The most common choices are the hospital, a hospice facility or a home. To learn more about hospice care, call the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at 1-800-658-8898. Visit NHPCO.org to find a hospice program in your community.
  • Do you want to receive comfort care?
  • At what point do you want to stop receiving treatment?
  • Do you want to receive resuscitation (advanced life support which includes chest compressions and breathing machine) if needed?

Funeral and Memorial Services

Though at first glance this may not be a pleasant topic to discuss or even think about, it is an event that may mean a lot to your family and friends when you are gone. You may have strong feelings about funeral and memorial services. Some people have opinions about the location of these events, participants, music, readings, and cultural and religious customs. Other topics to consider include whether or not to have a service, what type of service to have and whether you'd prefer cremation or a burial. It's important to express these feelings to your support system so they can respect your wishes. You may find that discussing your wishes gives you great comfort and allows those who love you to express support.

There are many other topics that will be addressed in advance directive. The doctor can help you get an advance directive form. Your healthcare team can help you navigate this difficult yet important decision making.


    Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 11, 2016.

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