Handbook for Mortals : Learning about specific illnesses : Keeping up with your prognosis

Donít ask, "How long do I have?," ask: "What is the shortest and longest that I can reasonably expect?"

At virtually every encounter, reconfirm likely symptoms and needs in general terms: "From what I know now, Iím making plans around a need for _____ (occasional severe illness, a few months of substantial disability, a risk of seizures, whatever...). Is that about right? Anything else?"

When something new arises, ask: "Does this change what I can expect?"

Expect that many doctors wonít really know the answers. Ask your doctor, "How many patients like me have you followed through to death?" Donít accept: "Thereís no one quite like you!" If your doctor doesnít really have any experience, find someone (another doctor, a home health nurse, a nursing home nurse, a hospice professional, or a support group leader) who has "been there" before.

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Keywords: prognosis, expected life span, how long to live
Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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