Tips for Talking About End of Life
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:
- “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.”
Know 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. 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 wishes 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?
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 that 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.
To download and print the Pre-Planning Checklist, please click the button below.
Complete the Biographical Information Form
It is recommended that you complete the information, provide the funeral home with a copy, discuss this with your family and keep it in a safe location where your loved ones know how to obtain it when the need arises.
Consult with your insurance agent regarding policies and beneficiaries
It is a good idea to make sure your beneficiaries are up to date on any and all policies you may have. Make sure you review this information and make necessary changes regularly.
Consult with your employer regarding life insurance policies
Some employers offer Life Insurance for their employees.
Consult with your financial advisor or financial institutions regarding financial accounts held individually or jointly
You should know the policies and procedures of your financial institutions as well as updating and maintaining any accounts with beneficiaries.
Consult with your attorney
Not only can your attorney assist you in making a legal binding will, your attorney can also advise you on the entire pre-planning process.
Make a will
It is recommended that you consult with an attorney in making a legal binding will.
Review medical Power of Attorney and Living Will information
In the event you cannot make decisions for yourself you should appoint someone to make those decisions for you, based upon your wishes.
Make End-of-Life care decisions
Review your options for End of Life Care. This includes Organ and Tissue Donations (CORE), Full Body to Science Donations (Human Gift Registry of WV), Advanced Medical Directives (Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney). It is recommended that you discuss and make these decisions with your family.
Make decisions regarding your final disposition
If you do not already own a cemetery plot you may want to consult with the cemetery of your choice regarding the option you have available to you and your family. Even if you choose to be cremated, cemeteries offer options for this as well.
Place all paperwork and your biographical information together in a safe location, and notify your family of this location
It is recommended that your keep all your information together in a safe location. We also recommend that you discuss this with your family letting them know where they can obtain the information when the time arises.