When it comes to making decisions about end of life wishes, it’s important to have already discussed your loved ones wishes before it comes time to make those decisions. Because end of life decisions are deeply personal and rooted in personal values and beliefs, these conversations can be tricky to navigate and awkward to initiate. Learn more about the importance of talking to your loved one about his or her end of life wishes and how you can start the conversation in a way that is compassionate, kind, and effective.
Why It’s Important to Discuss End of Life Care Now
As awkward and intimidating as end of life care conversations can be, the truth is that these conversations are necessary for family and caregivers to have sooner rather than later. According to the AARP, 90 percent of people think it is important to have conversations about end of life care with their loved ones, but only 30 percent have actually had those conversations. Ultimately, having the conversation with your loved ones now can ease the stress of making hard decisions during the grieving process.
We can not assume to know what our loved one wants. We may have an idea of what we would want, but because end of life decisions are deeply personal, each person will have a unique approach to their decisions. Knowing what those decisions are now, before a medical emergency can save time, money, and emotional distress in what is already distressing time.
5 Tips for Having End of Life Care Conversations
So, how do we have these tough conversations with loved ones? These tips can help you get the conversation started and create an end of life care plan that is clearly understood by friends and family.
1. Use current events to broach the topic.
Current events are a great way to bring up the topic of death. Whether it’s a news article about someone on life support or an estate issue, or even the passing of another family member, using recent events is a great way to break the ice on what can be a tough topic. Use these events to ask your loved one questions about their own plans and wishes.
2. Share your own end of life plans.
Be willing to share your own plans first. Start by telling your loved one what you want in case of you become ill or die. Share your plans for your funeral, for your children, and for your estate. If you are open and honest with them, they are more likely to be open and honest with you.
3. Remember that there is no right answer.
While you have an idea of the “right” end of life care decisions, remember that there truly is no right answer. Each person is different and your job is to be a listening ear and withhold judgement.
4. Listen more than you speak.
Once you get your loved one talking about the issue, let him or her continue speaking. Be okay with moments of silence and resist the urge to fill it with empty words. Your loved one may be processing important issues in their own care. When you do speak, ask open-ended questions that continue the conversation.
5. You may need to attempt to have the conversation multiple times before your loved one opens up – and that’s okay.
Nothing is set in stone and end of life decisions can be changed. You do not have to accomplish everything in one conversation. In fact, you probably won’t! Just keep coming back to the conversation with patience and compassion, being a listening ear for your loved one and helping him or her work through very important decisions.
These conversations are hard, and they often start awkward. However, many people who have had these conversations and made end of life plans together actually end up getting to know their loved one on a deeper level – and even have fun in these conversations! Once you get the conversation started, you may even get to hear great memories and family stories. Relax, start slow, enjoy the time together and start pre-planning the celebration of a lifetime. Have you made your end of life plans or had this conversations with a loved one? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!