When it comes to thinking about the end of our lives, it can be uncomfortable. Perhaps you’ve thought a lot about how you want the end of your life to look, but you’re having trouble initiating a conversation with your loved ones. Perhaps you’re the adult child of aging parents who have not mentioned their end-of-life wishes or getting a living will. This is a conversation that should not be put off any longer. This article provides resources to get the conversation started, so that you and your loved ones are on the same page regarding end-of-life issues.
Preparing for the Conversation
We often don’t talk about difficult things with family, because we don’t know where to start or we don’t have the words to broach the subject. It can be helpful to sit down and outline what your goals are in the conversation. For example,
- Putting finances in order
- Ensuring a family member or pet is taken care of
- Alerting loved ones to an important or upsetting health issue
- Informing loved ones, as to who you want as your health care proxy
This list can get pretty long, so it’s essential to write things down in advance to help keep you on track. One resource we’ve found that is useful at this stage is The Conversation Project’s Conversation Starter Kit. This 11-page guide consists of fillable forms designed to help you plan and guide the conversation with your loved ones.
Educating Loved Ones
Sometimes, priming yourself and your loved ones can provide a starting point for the end-of-life conversation. Podcasts are a popular way for people to learn new things. -Why not end-of-life care options? Here’s a list of several popular podcasts addressing end-of-life issues that you can subscribe to and share with your friends and family:
- NPR Life Kit: How to be a Better Caregiver When a Loved One Gets Sick
- On Being: What Matters in the End–Featuring Atul Gawande
- NPR Life Kit: Take Control of Your Care When You’re Seriously Sick
- Healthcare Communication—Effective Techniques for Clinicians: How to Prepare for End of Life Conversations
- Death, Sex & Money: Alzheimer’s and the World’s Saddest Comedy Club
Finding the Words
Whether you are thinking about your own future or the future of an aging loved one, it can be hard to find the right time and the right words to begin a living will conversation. The truth is, this doesn’t have to be one single, heavy conversation. You can lead up to longer, more in-depth discussions using a few smaller conversations that can happen at any time. Consider these conversation-starters:
- “I was thinking about what happened to Aunt Sally, and it made me realize…”
- “My friend Louis died suddenly last month, leaving his wife and daughter reeling. I’m worried that might happen to you and dad.”
- “You know, I’m okay right now, but I’m worried that _____, and I want to be prepared.”
- “I need your help thinking about the future.”
- “Remember when Uncle Fred died and everyone said it was a ‘good death’? How can we make sure yours is too?”
Talking about living wills and end-of-life issues can be difficult. However, it’s a conversation worth having to ensure you face your last years, months, days and hours on your own terms.
Learn more about living wills.
The Conversation Project. “Starter Kits.” (Accessed November 28, 2019) https://theconversationproject.org/
ARRP. Org. “Caregiver Life Balance.” (Accessed November 28, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2017/talk-end-of-life-care.html