How Much Time Do I Have Left?


“How much time do I have left?”

That’s often the reply when a doctor says to a patient that treatments are no longer working and that a patient should consider hospice.

But maybe the question should be: “How can I make sure that the time I have left is best utilized?”

It is impossible to say exactly how much time a person has left, so the best estimate is an educated guess. Even with cancers that progress in patterns that are familiar to physicians, no one can say for sure how long a patient has left.

For a patient and his or her caregivers (and others who are close to the patient), the choices are continued (often futile) efforts to confront the terminal condition or the pursuit of meaningful life experiences during one’s remaining time.

If you search the internet for personal hospice stories, you will read of sons and daughters who tell of a parent’s final days/weeks/months and a different, special kind of closeness enjoyed with mom or dad. You will learn of survivors who were grateful for the quality experiences with their loved ones before their passings. And you will learn the value of being able to say goodbye—for the patient and the survivors.

If a patient seeks hospice care in time (there’s that word time again!), he or she may have opportunities to visit with friends and family and have conversations that may not be possible if the patient is in a hospital ICU.

“How much time do I have left?” At age 40, we might think we have another 40-50 years. At age 65, we may figure on living another 25 years or so. At age 90, we know time is shorter, but even then we may presume that death is still down the road.

When a terminal diagnosis is delivered, things become more urgent. Yes, the number of days remaining is important to consider. But the quality of those remaining days should also be considered.

For information about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

(photo credit:,,
















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