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.