Quality of Life

The term Quality of Life is often used at a time when patients, families and health care professionals are trying to understand the impact of a serious illness. There are two key concepts associated with Quality of Life:

  1. It is multi-dimensional and includes physical, social, psychological and spiritual dimensions.
  2. It can only truly be determined by you, the patient.

Although family members, physicians and other health professionals can make significant observations, research consistently shows important differences between how patients, and those around them, interpret the question: How is your quality of life?

A quality of life assessment can be considered a review of the patient’s world. Common questions your doctor may ask you include:

Physical Function

  • Are you experiencing pain or other distressing symptoms?
  • How does your illness impact your daily activities?

Social interactions

  • How are you getting along with family and friends as a result of your illness?
  • Are there things you enjoy doing that your illness is interfering with?

Psychological Well-Being

  • Have you been feeling worried or sad about your illness?
  • How are you coping with your illness?

Spiritual or Existential Concerns

  • How have your religious beliefs been affected by your illness?
  • Do you find yourself wondering what is the meaning of all this?

The sum of these questions will give you and your doctor a “snapshot” of your world. This snapshot helps both your doctors and your family understand what is important to you at this time. Understanding the elements of your illness experience that reduce your quality of life helps to focus medical care and treatment. Your goals and wishes also become clear which is crucial for making important decisions about your care.

Adapted from:Chang V and Weissman, D. Fast Facts and Concepts #51 Quality of Life, September 2006.
End-of-Life Physical Education Resource Center www.eperc.mcw.edu