Discussing End-of-Life Care With a Loved One
No one looks forward to talking about end-of-life care — particularly with a cherished parent, relative, or friend. As a result, many avoid this important topic until a loved one receives a terminal diagnosis or cannot make personal health decisions.
While it’s not easy, having this discussion—well in advance of a terminal diagnosis or health crisis—is crucial to planning for your senior’s future. The sooner you discuss their final requests, the more likely you can honor them.
Starting the End of Life Conversation
Here are some tips to minimize discomfort for everyone as you begin the end-of-life conversation with your loved one:
- Approach with Compassion
Break the ice by asking your senior’s thoughts about the future and if you can help them prepare for it. The AARP suggests these opening lines:
- "While everything is okay right now, have you thought about what matters to you at the end of life?”
- “Mom/Dad, I’ve been thinking about the future. Have you thought about what matters to you down the road?”
- "Mom/Dad, have you ever heard of advanced directives? Maybe we should discuss that to make sure you get the treatment you want down the road.
- State your Observations
If you notice your loved one experiencing health changes, you can compassionately point them out. For example, you might say, “Mom, I notice you are losing weight/eating less/having trouble getting around. Your health and well-being are important to me, and I want you to be okay.”
- Acknowledge the Discomfort
Feeling uncomfortable about discussing end-of-life issues is completely normal. Although it might seem counterintuitive, acknowledging this discomfort can help. You might say: “Dad, I know you don’t want to talk about the end of your life right now — and honestly, neither do I — but I want to honor your final wishes.”
- Find Their Voice
Choosing a Power of Attorney — or someone to make healthcare decisions for your loved one if they are not capable of making them — can give them a “voice.” Selecting a Power of Attorney can also lead to a discussion about a Living Will—a legal document that outlines what types of medical care someone wants or does not want if they become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney can help reduce stress, confusion, and disputes among family members during a challenging time.
Hire a Professional End-of-Life Caregiver
Visiting Angels’ caregivers have access to end-of-life care training to help them support older adults and their family members. The program provides caregivers with an understanding of the various stages of dying to reassure and comfort older adults while reducing stress for families.
Regardless of age or stage your older loved one may be in, a Visiting Angels’ caregiver can provide the support they need to maintain a sense of purpose. Hiring a Visiting Angels’ caregiver can help families spend more quality time with their loved one.
If your senior is approaching the end-of-life stage, our Visiting Angels’ care coordinators are available to meet during a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your loved one’s personal care needs.