Even if you have done everything to communicate your own end-of-life wishes, you may find need to take the initiative and have the discussion loved ones who have not shared their end-of-life wishes with you. Here are pointers to keep in mind:
Select an Appropriate Setting
Find a comfortable place that is free from distraction to hold a one-on-one discussion.
Ask Permission to Begin this often Tender Conversation
People cope with end-of-life issues in different styles. Ask permission to discuss the topic, this assures your loved one that you will respect and honor all of his or her wishes. Here are a few suggestions:
- “I would like to talk about how you would like to be cared for if you got very 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 had the conversation in advance.”
What To Expect
Keep in mind that you have initiated this conversation because you care about your loved one’s wellbeing – especially during difficult times. Allow your loved one to set the pace. Focus on maintaining a caring manner throughout the conversation, show your love and concern:
- Nod your head in agreement, acknowledge them with kindness
- If appropriate hold your loved one’s hand
- Offer a hug or comforting touch
A few questions you may want to ask about end-of-life care include:
- If you were diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, what types of treatment would you prefer?
- 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?
- What can I do to best support you and your choices?
You may well encounter resistance the first time you bring up this topic, sadly death and dying is not spoken about in our culture. Don’t be discouraged; instead try again at another time.
Be a Good Listener
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.