Elderly Loved Ones
guest blogger: Beverly Nelson
End-of-life preparation for a loved one can be emotionally painful; however, not asking difficult questions forces you to make assumptions about what your loved one would have wanted. Not only do end-of-life arrangements ensure your loved one’s wishes are fulfilled, but these arrangements also provide you and your family with peace of mind. The following article explores how to bring up the sensitive topic of end-of-life arrangements and offers suggestions for facilitating a productive, informative conversation.
When, Where, Who
While 90 percent of people believe discussing end-of-life arrangements with their family is important, only 27 percent actually do so. Why? An end-of-life conversation is emotionally heavy and requires family members to work together to determine the right time, location, and audience to discuss preparations. Finding the right time and place can help ensure that the conversation does not overwhelm your loved one. Consider where he/she feels most comfortable and who he/she would likely want to discuss this topic with. If you are discussing arrangements with your parents, it is likely they would want all their children to be present. If key people are unable to attend, make sure they are informed about what was discussed. Remember, end-of-life preparations are about finding out what your loved one wants and making sure the necessary people are aware of it.
How to Begin
The most effective and tactful way to bring up end-of-life arrangements varies based on the individual. Likely, you know this person very well and are able to make educated assumptions about what method would work best. If your loved one is very practical, consider focusing on the pragmatic planning aspect -- what, where, when, how. If your loved one is more idealistic, you may want to focus on how these arrangements will ensure their wishes are taken care of and how planning can reduce family stress. Remember to be considerate of your loved one’s psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.
What to Discuss
There are a number of questions you can ask pertaining to finances, health, and end-of-life care. Make sure you are writing down his/her answers and are asking for clarification when necessary. If there are any particular areas concerning your family, (wills, funeral wishes, etc.) make sure you obtain clear answers. Here are a few topic suggestions.
- Finances- First, ask your loved one if they have already made financial arrangements. Perhaps they are working with an attorney or have an updated will locked in a bank safe. You also want to establish who he/she would like to name as power of attorney (the person who can make financial decisions of your loved one’s behalf).
- Health- Having a clear understanding of what type of treatments your loved one wants (and does not want) helps ensure that you are making the right decisions when they are no longer able to do so. Also, establish who your loved one would like to make medical decisions on their behalf. If your loved one would like to be an organ/tissue donor, ensure this is documented.
- End-of-Life Care- As your loved one nears the end of his/her life, it is important to have a clear picture of how they would like to be treated. Discuss palliative care options in your area and clarify if he/she would want you to be resuscitated if heartbeat/breathing stops. In addition, ask if there is anything you or your family can do to make end-of-life care more comfortable. This may also be an appropriate time to ask your loved one if they have any additional end-of-life wishes.
Thinking about and discussing end-of-life arrangements can be an incredibly sad and stressful time. However, not discussing these arrangements can make it impossible for you and your family to fulfill your loved one’s wishes. If you want to ensure the best possible end-of-life experience for the person you love, don’t shy away from the difficult questions.