The Gift of Difficult Conversations

The Power of Communicating Your Wishes to Loved Ones

Many of us avoid talking about end-of-life. Death is a tough subject that’s easier to avoid than face openly. But putting off difficult conversations about what you want to happen (or not) at end-of-life can be worse. You may leave a loved one in a position to make a life-or-death decision without knowing your wishes.

You may leave one person with the task of caring for you at end-of-life without sharing why with all your loved ones, leading to potential strain in relationships. Avoid burdening your loved ones by giving them the gift of difficult conversations.

You may still be reluctant—if so, you are not alone. According to a 2013 survey by The Conversation Project, 90% surveyed said talking to their loved ones about end-of-life care was important, while only 30% had actually done so.1 Another 60% said making sure their family is not burdened by tough end-of-life decisions is extremely important, yet almost as many had not communicated their wishes.2

What’s clear is everyone knows these conversations are important but few want to have them.

If you do decide to have these conversations, the two most important topics you need to cover are:

  • Your wishes for end-of-life care
  • Who will be involved (and why)

Many people wait until a crisis before discussing their end-of-life preferences, when it may already be too late. You may not be in the proper mental state to make that decision or you may not be able to communicate at all. This leaves your designated representative responsible for making big, difficult decisions in a time of emotional distress. Now is the time to share your preferences while you’re able.


“Many people wait until a crisis before discussing their end-of-life preferences, when it may already be too late.”


There may be circumstances where comfort is more important to you than undergoing expensive, painful treatment. Or, you may prefer to have full mental awareness near death. Sharing these preferences with your loved ones early allows them to honor and understand your wishes confidently when the time comes.

If you have multiple children or close friends who may be involved, have these conversations with all of them. Doing so can help eliminate pressure on your designated representative and remove surprises for others when difficult decisions have to be made.

Talking about the dying process is never easy and may be hard on your loved ones. Helping them understand your wishes now will not only help reduce burden later, but may help everyone come together and support each other during difficult times.

Consider giving your friends and family the gift of difficult conversations. Remember, a tough conversation now can help strengthen your bond with and between loved ones later.

Here are a few important items to consider before these conversations, courtesy of the Let’s Talk3 brochure sponsored by the US Administration on Aging:

Tips from the Let’s Talk3 brochure sponsored by US Administration on Aging

  1. You may be surprised to find your loved ones have been meaning to have the conversation too.
  2. It can be helpful to engage an outside facilitator, such as a social worker or minister (your Life Planning Counselor) to help keep everyone focused, manage potential disagreements and communicate difficult subjects.
  3. These conversations may reveal that you and your loved ones disagree on some things. That’s okay. It’s important to simply know this, and to continue talking about it now—not during a crisis situation.
  4. Be patient. Some people may need a little more time to think about topics like this.
  5. Nothing is set in stone. You can always change your minds as circumstances change.

 



Resources:

1. The Conversation Project Fact Sheet. https://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Conversation-Project-Fact-Sheet-FINAL.pdf

2. Your Conversation Starter Kit. https://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/themes/conversation-project/images/TCP_StarterKit.pdf

3. Let’s Talk: Starting the Conversation... https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Resources/Brochures/docs/Conversations.pdf


Fisher Life Planning referrals and tools are provided as a courtesy—please be sure to always employ your best judgement when considering these or any other resources. And rest assured, we value good, unbiased judgment too; that’s why we don’t accept any monetary compensation from our referrals.

The views of Fisher Life Planning should not be regarded as personal investment, tax or legal advice. We give you our best insights at that moment, but we could change our views in the future based on new information or further analysis.


About Fisher Life Planning Services

Fisher Life Planning is designed to help aging adults navigate life’s most complex decisions. Our Life Planning Professionals help you consider and approach some of life’s unexpected challenges around housing strategies, holistic wellbeing, legacy planning, and pursuing purpose with confidence, now and into the future. Better living through education, empowerment and support from professionals who care—that’s Fisher Life Planning.