How to Talk About End-of-Life with Seniors

talk about end-of-life

Talking about end-of-life is challenging

Death and dying aren’t subjects that you usually want to discuss, especially with your older adult. But it’s one of the most important conversations because it’s not actually about dying. It’s about how people want to live during their last months, weeks, and days.


Ignoring end-of-life won’t make it go away

Besides, ignoring the topic doesn’t mean that death won’t happen. None of us are mind readers, so we can’t possibly know how someone wishes to be treated unless we ask. Not knowing can actually cause everyone more unhappiness and stress.


What is end-of-life about?

End-of-life is about the care and support someone will receive as their body moves toward death. This process could take days, weeks, or months.

End-of-life planning usually includes:

  • The goals of care, like if certain medicines or treatments should be continued
  • Where someone wants to spend their final days
  • Which treatments they wish to receive
  • What type of palliative care and hospice care they wish to receive


Why it’s important to talk about end-of-life

Too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose and too many of their family feel guilty and unsure about their wishes.

You might think that your senior doesn’t want to talk about the end of their life, but you’ll be surprised to see some of these statistics. It turns out that most people believe that talking about end-of-life is important – not only for themselves, but also for their families.

  • 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27% have actually done so.
  • 60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is extremely important, but 56% have not communicated their end-of life wishes.
  • 82% of people say it’s important to put their wishes in writing, but only 23% have actually done it.

The hard part is getting started. They may be afraid or concerned how you’ll react if they bring up the subject. Do your older adult a favor and help them to get the conversation started.


Free guide helps start end of life conversations

We found a great website called The Conversation Project. It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. They’ve created an excellent free guide called a Conversation Starter Kit that makes these tough conversations a little easier.

We recommend this guide because:

  • It helps you think through your feelings and concerns before you even start talking with someone else.
  • Concrete examples show how to break the ice and initiate an end-of-life conversation.
  • Suggestions for thoughtful questions help keep the conversation flowing.
  • It helps you plan when and where you’ll start the conversation, setting you up for success.
  • Simple questions about end-of-life options help you and your senior think through important aspects of care.


Bottom line

Most importantly, nobody can predict when end-of-life will happen. So, the best option is to plan ahead and start now. The last thing anyone wants is to try to have these conversations in the hospital.


Next Step  Get the free end-of-life conversation starter kit


You might also like:
5 Myths about Dying
What is a Living Will?
End-of-Life Controversy: Voluntarily Stop Eating


By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Sources: U.S. National Library of Medicine, The Conversation Project

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