Why You Should Share Your Bucket List With Your Doctor

Carpe diem.  Seize the day. Enjoy the present rather than placing all hope in the future.

Seems like a good motto for today, following yet another senseless mass shooting in a school where children are meant to be safe to learn, gather and pursue their dreams.  Tomorrow is promised to no one and a recent New York times report echoes this sentiment citing a study, published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, of more than 3,000 Americans that found that 9 out of 10 had a bucket list of goals or desires they wished to fulfill before they “kick the bucket” or in other words, die.  

But how many older adults have put off these wishes in favor of a more practical path?  Seniors, especially those with serious chronic health conditions may want to discuss their bucket list with their doctors to see what is still possible, what’s realistic and choose the treatment path that serves them best.  Unless your doctor is informed of your life goals, it’s difficult to make the right individual plan for care or to help adults physically prepare for travel or even to live long enough to celebrate a milestone. 

By asking about life goals, or a bucket list, health care providers can also uncover a powerful motivational tool for patients to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Advice to quit smoking, lose weight or get more regular exercise may be received (and acted on) better by patients when there is a tangible goal in front of them, such as having the stamina to finally take that bike tour through Italy or hike the Inca Trail.  Goals don’t have to be grand; dancing at their daughter’s wedding or being present for the birth of a grandchild can also provide the framework for a healthcare plan that best meets the needs and desires of the individual.

So while there is plenty of time, go ahead and make that bucket list, write it down and start talking with your doctor about what you can work on together to make sure at least some of those lifelong goals don’t remain just hopes and dreams.

Follow this link to read the full study online.