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:
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. 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
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