Talking to your family and loved ones about your end-of-life care and wishes can be daunting as well as traumatic. However, there are significant benefits to having this conversation and continuing it as you get older. This discussion will evolve over time and also become more comfortable. However, you will need to be extremely patient in the beginning and allow everyone the time they need to find a level of comfort with the topic.

Your chances of having a say in your health care, regarding how you feel about certain situations that could arise in the future towards the end of your life, will be better if you discuss them in advance with your family or close loved ones.

Prepare Yourself For The End Of Life Talk

To prepare yourself for this talk, you will first need to ask yourself some questions to determine what matters most to you at the end of your life. These questions could centre on things such as being able to live independently, still being able to recognise your children or spend time with loved ones. Sharing this information with people who love and care for you will make it easier for them to decide on what type of treatment you would want to receive if you were in a position where you were unable to communicate this to them.

Who Needs To Know About Your End Of Life Wishes?

The next step would be to decide on who needs to know what information, where the discussion will be held and when you will start the conversation. This discussion can be as formal or informal as you prefer and could take place at the kitchen table, in your place of worship, over a phone call or even on a walk.

How To Start Discussing End Of Life Choices

Try to imagine the conversation in your mind first. It may help by writing a letter or a few pointers to guide you through the conversation. Bear in mind that you may also need more than one discussion to cover everything.

You can open the discussion by saying things like:

  • “I’d like us to chat about ………?”
  • “I would like you to help me with something.”
  • “Although I’m fine now, I’ve started worrying about what will happen to me in the future, and I’d like to be prepared. Can we have a chat about this?”
  • “Have you thought about what would happen if I were incapacitated or died one day? I have some thoughts that I’d like to share with you.”

What Topics To Cover During End Of Life Discussions

Once the conversation has started, you may wish to discuss several other topics such as:

  • Health issues that concern you, healthcare situations, who should care for you (or not care for you), health insurance policies, treatments that you would want / not want.
  • End of life scenarios such as resuscitation, ventilation, feeding tubes, etc.
  • Your Will and Executor, legal documents, finances, property, your lawyer’s contact details.

Remember that listening is important as it builds trust, and the other person may have some very valid points that you haven’t yet considered. Life is dynamic, so be prepared to change your mind about certain things as life changes. Disagreements may crop up – be ready for and patient with these. The important thing is to keep the conversation going.

Keep The End Of Life Conversation Relevant

The more you talk to the people who matter, the more they will know what matters to you, and the more likely your end-of-life wishes will be met. It may be worth scheduling another discussion in the near future to keep the conversation going. This will allow you to repeat what matters to you and enable you to adjust anything that needs to be amended due to a change in health or life circumstance. It also provides time for questions to develop and to be addressed. Using the Stanford What-Matters-Most letter form and answering some simple questions, any adult can write about what matters most to them when it comes to their healthcare choices they want to make for their future when they cannot speak for themselves. Download the What-Matters-Most Letter here.

Important Legal Documents For End Of Life

After you have reached a level of understanding about your end-of-life care and wishes with your loved ones, it is time to record your conversations as a formal document. This can be done through your lawyer and should include:

A Health Care Proxy

This is where you will name the person whom you have chosen to make health care decisions for you, in the event that you are unable to do so for yourself.

A Living Will

This directive will describe your preferences and wishes for your health care and end of life if you cannot speak for yourself. This will be a summary of your discussions with your loved ones.

Your Will

This is an essential legal document that every person should have, regardless of how little or how much money you have. It is the only legal method which ensures that your assets are protected and distributed according to your wishes when you die. If you do not have a will when you die, your assets will be divided according to the Court’s decision. This may leave your dependants in a financial predicament.

Advanced care and end of life planning are vital to helping your loved ones know what decisions to make if you become incapacitated and unable to communicate, whether due to ill health or an accident. Your family and close friends should be aware of your preferences, especially when it comes to decisions about withdrawing or ceasing medical treatments.

Often families are left in the dark when it comes to making decisions about the type and length of treatments you are willing to receive if you are debilitated. Your values and beliefs are just as crucial as your preferences, and your loved ones and doctors should be aware of these.

While legal documentation is essential, so too are conversations with those dearest to you. Having these difficult conversations will enable both you and your loved ones to feel relief and comfort, knowing that your choices and wishes will be carried out when the time comes. This will save a great deal of stress during a very traumatic time.

Download My Funeral Wishes and make sure your funeral arrangements are taken care of exactly how you would have wanted it.