Talking With Others
Even if you have done everything to communicate your own end-of-life wishes, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to take the initiative and have the discussion with family members or loved ones who have not shared their thoughts with you. Here are a few helpful pointers to keep in mind as you plan for having this conversation:
Do Your Homework
Before initiating the discussion, learn about end-of-life services available in your community. Become familiar with what each option offers so you can help your loved one determine which ones best meet their needs.
Select an Appropriate Setting
Plan for the conversation; find a quiet, comfortable place that is free from distraction to hold a one-on-one discussion. Usually, a private setting is best.
People cope with end-of-life issues in many ways. Asking permission to discuss this topic assures your loved one that you will respect his or her wishes and honor them. Some ways of asking permission are:
Know What To Expect
- “I would like to talk about how you would like to be cared for if you got really sick. Is that okay?”
- “If you ever got sick, I would be afraid of not knowing the kind of care you would like. Could we talk about this now? I would feel better if we did.”
Keep in mind that you have initiated this conversation because you care about your loved one’s wellbeing – especially during difficult times. Allow your love one to set the pace. Try to focus on maintaining a warm and caring manner throughout the conversation by showing your love and concern:
- Nod your head in agreement
- Hold your loved one’s hand
- Reach out to offer a hug or comforting touch
Questions you may want to ask your loved one about his or her end-of-life care include:
- If you were diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, what types of treatment would you prefer? Aggressive or comfort care?
- Have you named someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so?
- How would you like your choices honored at the end of life?
- Is it important for you – and your family – to have emotional and spiritual support?
- What can I do to best support you and your choices?
Understand that it is normal to encounter resistance the first time you bring up this topic. Don’t be surprised or discouraged; instead, plan to try again at another time.
Be a Good Listener
Keep in mind this is a conversation, not a debate, sometimes, just having someone to talk to is a big help. Be sure to make an effort to hear and understand what the person is saying. These moments, although difficult, are important and special to both of you. Some important things you can do are:
- Listen for the wants and needs that your loved one expresses.
- Make clear that what your loved one is sharing with you is important to you.
- Show empathy and respect by addressing these wants and needs in a truthful and open way.
- Verbally acknowledge your loved one’s rights to make life choices – even if you do not agree with those choices.
Having conversations with your loved ones about their end-of-life wishes can be a sensitive discussion. These conversations matter and are needed to learn about your loved one’s wishes so that those wishes can be honored at the end of life.