Death is not a popular subject for conversation. Most of us are uncomfortable thinking about death, let alone our own death or the death of the ones we love.
But there is no avoiding the inevitable. Instead of avoiding questions about end-of-life care, you should take the time now to speak with your spouse or parents about their preferences. A somewhat difficult conversation now can give you and your loved one peace of mind that their wishes will be honored if they are ever in a situation where a doctor needs such guidance.
Here are a few tips for making that conversation happen.
Choose the right time and place
You know your loved one better than anyone. They might be most comfortable discussing end-of-life preferences during a large family gathering like Thanksgiving. For other seniors, a more private setting like a long car ride or a walk through the neighborhood would help them open up more.
Plan how you will bring it up
A good introduction can help you broach the topic with confidence. If you recently set up or amended your estate plan, you can mention what you included in your advance healthcare directive and your positive feelings about taking care of that. Another way to get the ball rolling is to ask them about how it was for them when their own parents passed away. After they describe those final days, you can ask what they would want done the same way — or differently — when it is their time. You can talk about how they can help the surviving family members through the transition by making their intentions explicit, rather than having the family members guess what they wanted done.
Pay close attention to what your loved one says and take detailed notes. Go over them with the loved one so there are no misunderstandings. Encourage them to complete an advance directive to share with their doctors and family members. Otherwise, you at least have the notes to refer to if there is a health emergency in the future.
Don’t give up
Your loved one might resist talking about this the first time you bring it up. But that should not end the matter. Wait for other opportunities to discuss end-of-life care, such as when a friend or loved one dies or the two of you watch a movie in which a character passes away.
Once your loved one has considered their preferences and made them clear, you can proceed knowing that you will make the right choices when necessary.