Advance Care Planning Awareness Month
Start the Conversation About Your Future
Talking about death and dying with our loved ones is hard. Many of us avoid it—but delaying these difficult conversations can make things worse later on. Talking about your own end-of-life wishes and desires does not mean you are ready to stop living your life fully. To the contrary, you are ready to proactively take control of your advance care plans and start having important conversations with your family. You will protect the emotional well-being of those loved ones who may otherwise have to make stressful decisions about your care without knowing your wishes.
Whether you are the one starting the conversation with your children and other family members, or you are the child starting the conversation with an older parent, there are steps you can take to have a successful first meeting.
- Think about who should be present. Before you arrange the conversation, think through any key family members or loved ones that should participate.
- Be patient. This is a difficult conversation. Let everyone express their own opinions, questions, and concerns.
- Choose the right moment. Do not try to start the conversation on a whim when your family is not expecting it. For this type of conversation, it is best to have a plan and inform everyone about what you will be discussing.
- Be empathetic. Conversations about end-of-life care can be emotional. It is important to listen to everyone’s perspective.
- Avoid pressuring anyone. The first conversation, and subsequent early conversations, should simply be giving the older adult an opportunity to share his or her wishes, concerns, and questions, and allowing family members to respond. There will likely not be any major or final decisions made in the first conversation.
If you are looking for additional resources, we suggest The Conversation Project, a public engagement initiative that is part of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. They created the Your Conversation Starter Guide to assist older adults in discussing their advance care planning and wishes with family members. The guide provides some worksheets that you can complete on your own to prepare for the coming conversations and the activities really help you think about what you want for yourself in different scenarios.
Of course, if we can provide any support or guidance, please reach out to our team.