Another way that end of life discussion can happen is an open, honest conversation with family. End of life planning can happen at home at any time and realistically any age. While it is not easy to discuss death and planning for after death, it makes it easier on families during the grieving process. When planning at home there are several questions one should ask themselves such as:
- Do I need a will?
- If I already have a will, does it need to be updated?
- Who will make decisions for me if I cannot make them myself?
- Do I have life insurance?
- What type of healthcare arrangements if I end up going to the hospital or hospice care?
- Do I have money set aside for funeral arrangements?
- What are my preferences for my body after death? (Burial, cremation, whole body donation, etc.)
- Do my family members know where my important documents are?
- Which family members do I share my end of life plan with? Who will honor my preferences?
- What type of memorial do I want? (traditional funeral or something more modern)
Talking to family about death can be more difficult without a healthcare provider as support in answering questions and receiving information. There are a few tips and tricks thought to keep the conversation on the right track, open and honest.
Be Engaged with them and make direct eye contact and answer any questions they have. Be firm in decisions, tell family members important information they should know but remain compassionate.
Give Them Time dealing with the death of a loved one, even just in discussion and pre-planning phases is not a happy topic. Just as the individual who initiates the planning, family members must come to terms with the future. If they need time to process or are not ready to continue the conversation, give them time and come back to it.
Encourage Respect and Ensure Understanding even if this means not involving family members who might not respect certain wishes or preferences, let the family members who will know what is expected. Be thorough about planning and expectations so everyone fully understands what is being asked. If they need reassurance that all decisions are made in sound mind, give them that. Keep the conversation at a high level and fact-based to help with peace of mind.
Remember, change is okay, having the initial conversation is hard enough, so if changes come up to any planning, family members could become worried. Just remember that change is natural and if preferences about burial arrangements, healthcare options, or even how assets will get split up that it is okay to change them and discuss them with family. Any family member who is decided to be involved with end of life planning should be kept up to date with them.
Keep Them Involved by not only letting them know of any change in preferences but also taking them to doctors’ appointments or any end of life planning appointments, if necessary. Let them ask the professionals questions to help them feel at ease and get a better understanding of what is going on.
Put It In Writing while this might seem obvious it can be often overlooked but patients should have an advance directive which falls into three categories: a living will, a power of attorney or a healthcare proxy. This written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment and end of life plans helps ensure those wishes are carried out especially if the person is unable to communicate them.
With keeping these tips in mind, the conversation about end of life can be easier. While it is always going to be difficult to initiate and family members might struggle to accept these decisions or the future, beginning the conversation and being prepared can only help ease the transition. While it might seem easier to put it off until the time comes, early planning helps ensure that an individual’s preferences and wishes are honored regardless of the future outcomes.