End-of-Life Conversations with Seniors: A Guide for Caregivers

Use this guide for easier end-of-life conversations with seniors

End-of-life conversations empower a person to “die well”

Talking about end-of-life wishes is one of the most important conversations to have because it’s not actually about dying.

It’s about how your older adult wants to live during their last months, weeks, and days. 

And when others know their preferences, they’ll be able to die on their own terms.

But you’re not a mind reader.

So if your older adult doesn’t already have a living will or advance directive, you can’t possibly carry out their end-of-life wishes unless you talk about it.

During a health emergency, trying to guess what they would want or arguing with family about it only makes an already traumatic situation more stressful.

So the best option is to start talking about it now.

We explain what end-of-life care planning is, why these discussions are so important, and share a helpful free guide from The Conversation Project that makes these sensitive conversations easier.


What is end-of-life care?

End-of-life care is about the support and medical care someone will receive as their body moves toward death.

Each person is different and this process could take days, weeks, or months.

End-of-life care planning usually includes:

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


Why are end-of-life conversations so important?

Too many people are dying in ways they wouldn’t choose and too many family members are unsure and stressed about making choices on the person’s behalf.

You might assume that your older adult doesn’t want to talk about the end of their life, but you’ll be surprised by The Conversation Project’s survey results.

It turns out that most people believe that talking about end of life is important — not only for themselves, but also for their families. 

  • 92% of people think it’s important to discuss their end-of-life care wishes, yet only 32% have actually shared their wishes
  • 53% say that they’d be relieved if a loved one started the conversation
  • 24% say they haven’t had the conversation because it’s uncomfortable and they don’t know how to start

Knowing this may help you feel more comfortable bringing the topic up and having a meaningful conversation about their end-of-life wishes.


This free guide makes end-of-life conversations easier

The Conversation Project is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. 

They’ve created an excellent free guide called the Conversation Starter Kit in English, Spanish, and Chinese that makes these tough conversations a little easier.

It’s also available in 10 additional languages and in audio versions.

We recommend this guide because it:

  • Helps you think through your feelings and concerns before you even start talking with your older adult
  • Shows how to break the ice and initiate an end-of-life conversation with useful examples
  • Keeps the conversation flowing with suggestions for thoughtful questions
  • Sets you up for success by helping you plan when and where to start the conversation
  • Helps you and your older adult think through important aspects of care with simple questions about end-of-life options


Next Step > Get the end-of-life conversation starter kit and more free resources at The Conversation Project


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team


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