Discussing Financial and Life Changes with Your Doctor

Planning for your care in the event of a long-term or serious illness can involve more than giving a loved one a health care directive, a living will or health care proxy, and a power of attorney. If you have questions about what choices you have, you can ask your doctor as well.

One way to bring up the subject is to say: “I’m worried about what would happen in the hospital if I were very sick and not likely to get better. Can you tell me what generally happens in that case?”

It helps the doctor—and you—if he or she knows about the non-medical parts of your life. Where you live, how you get around, and what activities are important to you—these are all things that can make a difference in decisions about your health care. The following are some examples of practical matters you might want to discuss with your doctor.

Don’t hesitate to ask the doctor about the cost of your medications.

In general, the best time to talk with your doctor about these issues is while you are still relatively healthy. Medicare and private health insurance may cover these discussions with your doctor. If you are admitted to the hospital or a nursing home, a nurse or other staff member may ask if you have any advance directives.

Click here to learn more about advance care planning.


Driving is an important part of everyday life for many people, and making the decision to stop driving can be very difficult. Tell your doctor if you or people close to you are concerned about your driving and why. He or she can go over your medical conditions and medications to see if there are treatable problems that may be contributing to driving difficulties.

Find out more about older drivers.



Another hard decision that many older people face is whether to move to a place where they can have more help—often an assisted living facility. If you are considering such a move, your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons based on your health and other circumstances. He or she may be able to refer you to a social worker or a local agency that can help in finding an assisted living facility.

Read more information about long-term care.


Don’t hesitate to ask the doctor about the cost of your medications. If they are too expensive for you, the doctor may be able to suggest less expensive alternatives. You can ask if there is a generic or other less expensive choice. You could say, for instance: “It turns out that this medicine is too expensive for me. Is there another one or a generic drug that would cost less?”

Learn more about saving money on medicines.

Some other resources to explore (click on an organization’s name for its website):

American Health Care Association


Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

1-800-633-4227 (toll-free)

1-877-486-2048 (TTY/toll-free)

Eldercare Locator

1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)

Health in Aging Foundation

1-800-563-4916 (toll-free)


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

1-888-327-4236 (toll-free)

1-800-424-9153 (TTY/toll-free)

Nursing Home Compare

1-800-633-4227 (toll-free)

1-877-486-2048 (TTY/toll-free)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

1-888-463-6332 (toll-free)


Reprinted courtesy of the National Institute on Aging. For more on the agency’s work, click here.


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