How to Discuss End-of-Life Wishes

How to start talking about end-of-life care? Wondering how to be approach fulfilling the wishes of an elderly loved one? Keep reading for our advice.

Talking about death and dying is never easy, but it’s important to have conversations with elderly loved ones about their end-of-life wishes. Here are some tips for broaching the subject:

  • Express care and concern for their comfort. Make it about fulfilling their preferences, not your own needs.
  • Lead with questions about their values. What matters most as health declines? Independence? Being with family? Quality of life over length of life?
  • Discuss specific medical scenarios. If breathing machines were needed – would they want that? How about feeding tubes or resuscitation efforts?
  • Consider advance directives like living wills. These allow expressing choices for medical treatment if unable to communicate later on.
  • Bring up funeral or memorial preferences. Conversations need not be heavy – discuss favored hymns, and places to scatter ashes.
  • Appoint a health proxy. Choose someone trusted to make decisions aligned with their previous discussions if they cannot do so.
  • Revisit conversations periodically. Wishes may evolve as health changes – keep the lines of communication open.

Approaching the topic gently over multiple visits helps ensure loved ones get the end of life they desire. Don’t avoid discussions out of discomfort – your elder will appreciate the care in understanding their perspective.