Talking About End-of-Life Planning, Part I

Talking About End-of-Life Planning, Part I


Villa Close Up 1Many people fear that if you talk about death or difficult topics, the subject may become a reality. In fact, these last few weeks, months, or years can be the most powerful time in a person’s life and in that of their loved ones; a time review your life, conflict resolution, decision making and a time to say meaningful goodbyes.

Why We Need to Talk About It

It is so important to have a strong connection with your loved one who is nearing the end of their life. Nothing is worse than the type of grief we suffer when a loved one dies unexpectedly without getting a chance to say goodbye. “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you” are the four most powerful statements between loved ones and friends that can heal and strengthen relationships, according to Dr. Ira Byock, a prominent physician in the field of end-of-life and palliative care.

When To Start The Conversation

The best time to have a conversation about end-of-life is when your family member or loved one is active and healthy. These conversations can include finding out more about their choices, and to make your own wishes known. This is a time when you can connect with loved ones and share a discussion without as much of the emotional impact of the topic.

What Would We Need to Talk About?

If you were nearing the end of your life what would you want your loved ones to know about you, your feelings and your choices? And if you thought about your elderly parent, your spouse or your adult children and what would happen if they came to the end of their life because of illness or injury, what would you really want to know about them? Some common themes for discussion:

  • What someone is thinking and feeling about the ultimate end of their life.
  • Where do we go after death.
  • Regrets about life lived and opportunities missed.
  • Conversations and business unfinished.
  • Do you know that you were and are loved?
  • Choices for our care at the end of life.

How Do We Start The Discussion?

Someone just needs to start the conversation! Research has shown that most people do want to talk about what is happening to them or loved ones, but they are afraid to cause anguish or hurt feelings. Research has also shown that end-of-life conversations and choices made known ahead of time have a positive impact on relationships and on the emotional outcome of care.

Everyone should have this discussion, record their choices, and give copies to their loved ones, physician, and lawyer. Later this week, we will discuss legal and medical documents that need to be in place. In the meantime, learn more by visiting the National Institute on Aging and Family Caregiver Alliance

 by Peter Colten