It’s a difficult conversation, but sharing your end-of-life wishes is a valuable gift to loved ones.
If you have not talked to your loved ones about your end-of-life wishes, you’re not alone. According to AARP, only 27 percent of respondents shared their end-of-life choices. Meanwhile, 90 percent of people believe it’s a critical conversation with their family members but have yet to do so.
Most of us know how we want to live. Choosing how we want to die is equally essential.
What Are End-of-Life Plans?
End-of-life plans range from what type of medical treatment you want to your preference for a final resting place. You deserve to have a voice in how and where you spend your last days. By making your choices known today, you ensure your loved one’s honor and respect your wishes.
Getting your affairs in order (aka end-of-life plan) involves medical, legal, and financial decisions. Your doctor, an attorney, and an estate planner can guide you accordingly.
Three Elements in an End-of-Life Plan
Everyone has a different vision of end-of-life care. Experts agree that having the following documents helps ensure your loved ones clearly understand your wishes.
Advance Directive or Healthcare Proxy
A healthcare proxy is a document that gives someone the authority to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot communicate. These decisions include palliative care (hospice), tube feeding, and performing CPR.
Advanced directives, healthcare proxies, and living wills are similar but not identical. Anyone aged 18 or older may serve as your healthcare representative, including a spouse, child, sibling, or attorney. You may also name a second or backup representative.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A healthcare proxy makes decisions about your medical treatment. You’ll also need to appoint someone for durable power of attorney to pay for your healthcare. It can be the same person, or you can choose someone different.
Last Will and Testament
You determine the distribution of your assets and property via an executor of your will. Having a will helps your loved ones avoid the hassle and expense of probate. A will can also include your preference for cremation or burial and a final resting place.
Benefits of Discussing End-of-Life Plans
Discussing your end-of-life plans is not easy. Most people prefer not to think about their final days. You might delay having this discussion because you don’t want to upset your spouse, children, or siblings.
However, talking about end-of-life choices can lead to meaningful, intimate conversations that deepen relationships. Getting your affairs in order while you can articulate your wishes is a gift that your loved ones appreciate. Studies show that surviving family members feel less guilty and depressed when their loved one has made plans.
Conversation Starters About End-of-Life Plans
How do you begin a conversation about your final wishes? According to The Conversation Project, an organization that promotes discussion of end-of-life care, you start by organizing your thoughts. Taking time to consider the issues that matter to you most will make talking about them more manageable.
You might want to think about:
- Where do you want to spend your last days
- Whether you want medical treatment to prolong your life rather than the quality of life
- Organ donation
- How to pay for cremation and final resting place
- What type of memorial service you want, if any
Pick a Time and Place
After you’ve gathered your thoughts, it’s time to talk to the people who should know your end-of-life plans. They might include your spouse, children, siblings, doctor, or friend.
Commit to a specific date to talk to your loved ones. Think about where you feel comfortable having this conversation – around the kitchen table, on a walk, video chat, or phone call.
Here are some icebreakers to help you start a conversation about your end-of-life care:
“I’m okay right now, but I want to prepare for the future.”
“You might not know this, but I prefer cremation to burial. I’ve made decisions about other end-of-life issues, and I want to share them with you.”
“I know it’s an uncomfortable topic, but would you talk to me about my end-of-life plans?”
“Can we talk about what happens if I’m incapacitated or seriously ill?”
“I’m looking at a pre-need cremation plan, so you won’t have to worry about that.”
These are just a few ways to start the conversation. It also won’t be your first or only talk. However, you’ve opened the door to an open, honest discussion. Be patient with yourself and others. Everyone needs time to think about what was said.