Planning for the Future with COPD

Being diagnosed with a disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can make you and your caregivers think about uncomfortable topics you may not have explored before, including palliative and hospice care. Planning for your future is important so you can:

Thinking through these potential situations early 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 while treating your disease and improving your quality of life. Prescription medications may be offered to relieve your physical and emotional symptoms and counseling is available to support your emotional and/or spiritual well-being. Palliative care can also help by addressing practical concerns such as care coordination and life-planning. Learn more about palliative care in our Each Breath Blog and download the palliative care worksheet.

Understanding Your Options

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. Learn more about the differences between hospice and palliative care. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or emotional concerns you may have. You can work together to get the supportive care you need at each stage of your disease while planning for the care you want in the future.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with COPD, it is never to early to think about your care options.

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What kind of care is right for me?

The care that will benefit you the most depends on where you are at in your journey with COPD.

Please agree or disagree with these 4 statements to help decide what treatment option is right for you in your COPD journey.

I would like an extra layer of support while managing my COPD.

Please confirm.

Supportive care can take various forms, such as assisting with managing your treatment plan, alleviating symptoms, and supporting your emotional health.

I want my care to focus on maintaining and improving my quality of life.

Please confirm.

Care options might include exploring new treatment options such changing medications, participating in pulmonary rehab or exploring clinical trials.

I want to STOP receiving treatment that is intended to improve my COPD.

Please confirm.

Moving forward, the focus of your care would be on providing comfort and managing your symptoms.

My healthcare provider told me I have less than one year to live.

Please confirm.

There are options for additional care and support when given a diagnosis of a year or less to live.

Learn more about Hospice Care:
Hospice care provides comprehensive comfort care to you when you have reached the end-stage of your disease. Find out more about hospice care.
Learn more about Palliative care:
Palliative care can be provided at any stage of a chronic disease and focuses on continuing treatment and improving the quality of life for you and your loved ones. Find out more about palliative care.
Palliative care or hospice care may be right for you. Learn more about what these services offer and talk to your healthcare provider about which option is right for you.

Summary of your answers:

  • Agree - I would like an extra layer of support while managing my COPD.
  • Disagree - I would like an extra layer of support while managing my COPD.
  • Agree - I want my care to focus on maintaining and improving my quality of life.
  • Disagree - I want my care to focus on maintaining and improving my quality of life.
  • Agree - I want to STOP receiving treatment that is intended to improve my COPD.
  • Disagree - I want to STOP receiving treatment that is intended to improve my COPD.
  • Agree - My healthcare provider told me I have less than one year to live.
  • Disagree - My healthcare provider told me I have less than one year to live.

Getting Paperwork in Order

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 or friends and fill out the appropriate paperwork (advance directives) as early as possible. The sooner you discuss what you want, the less stressful it will be for you and your support system if the time comes when they may have to make potentially difficult decisions on your behalf. Use the topics below as guidelines for talking to your caregivers and healthcare providers about end-of-life care. 

An advance directive consists of two documents: Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will.

  • A healthcare power of attorney designates someone you know and trust to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
  • A living will outlines your end-of-life medical care choices. Your healthcare power of attorney can use this document to guide their decisions and put a voice to your wishes, rather than having to make decisions themselves. This can make it easier to honor your wishes.

Work with an estate-planning attorney, or your local legal aid office, to draft a durable financial power of attorney to appoint someone you trust to make decisions about your finances; this person will also have access to your assets and accounts.

Put your financial records in order and store them all in one place (includes account numbers, investments, credit cards, loans, deeds and more)

Draft your will. This is a document that can be drafted with or without an attorney, and typically consists of where your belongings will go at the end of your life.

Please note: Some states require these documents be notarized, while others do not. Be sure to check the requirements of your state.

Your Living Will

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

  1. 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.
  2. Do you want to receive comfort care?
  3. Would you want to receive artificial food if you are unable to eat?
  4. At what point do you want to stop receiving treatment?
  5. Do you want to receive resuscitation (advanced life support which includes chest compressions and breathing machine) if needed?

There are many other topics that will be addressed in end-of-life planning, and the documents can differ by state. Keep in mind, your healthcare provider can provide you with an advance directive, and they are also available online through your state’s website. Do not hesitate to rely on your healthcare team, as well as legal counsel (legal aid or private) to help you navigate these difficult, yet important decisions.

Page last updated: July 18, 2023

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