Perhaps one of the most difficult, but most important, conversations we need to have with our loved ones is the one about death and dying. Whether it concerns your own end-of-life wishes or a family member's or friend's, making preferences known is important at any age. While initiating the topic is the most difficult part of starting the conversation, once past the initial discomfort, most people are relieved to have the issues out in the open.
Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center in West Orange – which offers services to Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Somerset, Passaic and Union County residents– and Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice and Palliative Care Center in Toms River – which provides services to Ocean County residents – offers the following suggestions to help get the conversation started.
- Start by expressing how much you respect your loved one's desire to have his/her wishes followed after he/she is gone. If that feels too uncomfortable, bring up an example of a family member who did not leave instructions about his or her dying or even an example from the news about a celebrity's death that has caused confusion and legal battles.
- Sometimes it is helpful to acknowledge your discomfort bringing up the subject while expressing the need to do so to ensure your loved one's wishes are fulfilled. Recognizing it is not an easy topic will often help relax those involved.
- Encourage your loved one to answer the following questions about how, where and with whom he/she would like to spend the last days of his/her life: Do I want to die at home or in a medical facility?; Who do I want with me when that time comes?; Do I want life-sustaining treatment? And who will make that decision if I am incapacitated?; What kind of funeral service do I want?; Where do I want to be buried?
Putting these wishes in writing in an Advanced Directive will help give everyone involved clarity and peace of mind. An Advanced Directive is a legal document consisting of two parts: a Living Will, explicitly describing a person's wishes regarding medical treatment, particularly whether or not he/she wishes to be given life-prolonging treatment when death is imminent, and a Health Care Power of Attorney, appointing someone to act on his/her behalf and make decisions regarding his/her medical treatment if he/she is unable to do so. You can obtain a copy of an Advanced Directive at your physician's office or the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services web site at www.state.nj.us.
About Barnabas Health Hospice and Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice Comfort the Patient. Heal the Family.TM
Barnabas Health Hospice and Barnabas Health Van Dyke Hospice offer compassion and support to both the patient and family - empowering decision making, enhancing quality of life, providing comfort, and when the journey has ended, helping those who remain to cope with the loss and move forward. We collaborate with each patient's Primary Care Physician to offer hospice and palliative care services, throughout 10 New Jersey counties, in private homes, in the hospital, or in long-term care or assisted living facilities. For more information, visit barnabashealthhospice.org.