Avoiding end of life conversations won’t make it go away
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 they want to live during their last months, weeks, and days.
Besides, avoiding the topic doesn’t mean that death won’t happen. You’re not a mind reader, so you can’t possibly know your older adult’s end-of-life wishes unless you ask. During a crisis, trying to guess what they would want only worsens an already traumatic situation.
The best option is to start talking about it now. The last thing anyone wants is to try to have these difficult conversations in the hospital.
We explain what end-of-life discussions are about and why it’s so important to talk about it. We also share a helpful free guide that makes it easier to start these sensitive conversations.
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
- If they wish to receive palliative care and/or hospice care
Why end-of-life conversations are so important
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 your older adult 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 hardest part is getting started. Your older adult may be afraid or concerned how you’ll react if they bring up the subject. Do them a favor and help them 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 that’s 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 your older adult.
- 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 older adult think through important aspects of care
Recommended for you:
- 5 Myths about Dying
- Which End-of-Life Form Is Needed? POLST vs DNR
- The Reality of CPR for Seniors: Get the Facts
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