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Embracing change series: Sustaining quality of life during serious illness

March 8 2018, Ashby Village

Writing and 
Photographs by Richard Bermack

You can improve your quality of life despite face of serious illness. That was the message that Dr. Steven Pantilat gave the enthusiastic crowd at Ashby Village during the Embracing Change Series: Sustaining Quality of Life During Serious Illness. Dr. Pantilat is the director of the UCSF Palliative Care Leadership Center and the author of Life after the Diagnosis: Expert Advice on Living Well with Serious Illness for Patients and Caregivers.


Not only can patients enjoy life more, but their loved ones and caretakers can do better as well. The key is to understand what patients want. According to Dr. Pantilat, patients stated that not burdening their families financially, being comfortable and without pain, being spiritually at peace, and not forcing family members to make tough decisions about their care are most important. Living as long as possible was low on the list of concerns.


The most dangerous question a physician can ask is “Do you want us to do everything medically we can for you (and or your relative)?” This can be a very hard question to say no to, but a “yes” can result in the patient ending up on life support no matter what their DNR states. Better questions to ask are “What do you hope to gain from treatment, and what is most important to the person in their last moments?” Both patients and family members should be sure to inquire about access to Paliative Care.


This is the fourth forum of the Embracing Change Series, an education forum developed by the Member Support area, managed by Hilda Hernández-Gravelle. Over 85 people attended the presentation at Ashby Village. Our members were highly appreciative of Dr. Pantilat’s remarks, and thought it was a great explanation of palliative care and of important issues to think about when facing a serious illness. It was very gratifying that many participants told us that they would be making significant changes such as having careful conversations with their doctors and their families about palliative care, and that they would be making changes in their advance care directives to include requests for palliative care.

Embracing Change March 2018 (Ken)