Discussing End-Of-Life

Discussing End-Of-Life Wishes with a Family Member

Many families are uncomfortable bringing up the topic of final wishes. In fact, most people don't ever put their requests down on paper. Even though many Americans say they are in favor of advance directives, only few actually write them. Although it is a difficult conversation to initiate, it is important for care givers to sit down with their loved one to discuss his or her wishes regarding end-of-life care and the measures they want taken in terms of life-sustaining treatment.

Barnabas Health and Palliative Care Center offers these suggestions to care givers when approaching the topic of end-of-life care with a loved one:

  • If the person says they expect to overcome their illness, you can suggest that you still need to talk “just in case.”
  • You can acknowledge that although you feel awkward bringing up the topic, you would not feel comfortable if you did not inquire about their final wishes.
  • You can mention that a friend was anguished when his/her parent died because he/she had not made their preferences clear or written an advance directive.
  • To reduce uneasiness, you can say you want to make an advance directive for yourself and suggest the two of you complete them together.
  • For those who argue that it is bad luck or too painful to discuss what they want at the end of life, you should acknowledge the person's feelings of discomfort, but tell him/her that you do not want to be put in the difficult position of making a decision that may be very different from what he/she desired.

Once complete, it is recommended that you make several copies of your loved one's advance directive and distribute them to the individual’s physician, attorney and family members. It is also a good idea to keep a copy of the directive in a bedside drawer for emergency medical personnel to refer to if they come in response to a 911 call.