Planning Ahead Can Prolong Life For Terminally Ill Patients

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Study Reveals How Planning For The Future May Help With Longevity

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Being a planner can set you up for success in every phase of life. For example, students who set goals are more likely to see improvements in academic performance, and older people aiming to adopt healthier lifestyles can reduce the effects of dementia. According to a new study, planning for the future—even in the face of terminal illness—can prolong life for up to one year. 

The study, published in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, found that patients who are terminally ill might live longer if they discuss advance care options with doctors. 

Planning for advance care is a process between patients and health professionals, in which possible treatments, priorities, and desires for impending care are discussed. This is especially useful for doctors who have to choose whether or not to continue treatment when patients lose the ability to communicate.

In this particular study, researchers looked at the death dates of 205 patients with terminal illnesses, including advanced cancers, as well as heart and lung diseases. Of the patients, 102 had disclosed their advance care preferences while 103 did not. 

Of the group who engaged in these conversations, 90% with lung and heart diseases lived beyond the next year. This was compared to 67% who did not talk to their doctors about the future. The outcomes of patients with cancer were not affected. 

Until now, the connection between advance care discussions and longevity were unexplored. This research can provide hope for people who are diagnosed with progressive, terminal diseases and their families, who might get more time with loved ones. 

The analysis was explorative, and more research needs to be done to find conclusive evidence, but researchers did suggest a possible reason for the increase in survival rates. "This type of conversation helps these patients better understand the life-limiting nature of their illness," a news release said. Recognizing the severity of these illnesses could make patients more willing to accept treatment.

The underlying message of these findings could be helpful for anyone, regardless of health. Finding a purpose has been known to improve mental and physical well-being, and that fact now holds true in the face of death. Perhaps discussing the future, in any capacity, can make it feel less out of reach.

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