As we enter a new year, it’s a good time to plan our futures. Though many of us want to guide our lives as we age and control our futures as much as possible, too many of us do not share our wishes with others. Speaking with your loved ones about your wishes takes some thought and consideration. From their perspective it will be about losing you, about recognizing that one day you will no longer be with them. But, realize that by having this discussion you are doing what’s best for you and your loved ones. You are not only ensuring your wishes will be carried out but you are removing future burden from them. You will be giving them future peace of mind by allowing them to take comfort in knowing they fulfilled your wishes.
Often having a successful conversation about the end of life comes from the “why” behind your wishes. This type of understanding can only come from open and honest conversation.
Here’s a few tips to help make the end of life conversation a bit easier:
– Think about what you want. Begin by really thinking about what you want. It may help to consider your values, beliefs and views about what matters in life. This will help you offer specifics to your loved one and be able to answer their questions and concerns. Think about: how physically independent do you want to be; what level of comfort you may want (full comfort which may mean no consciousness or consciousness which may mean some sacrifice of comfort); what would you want from your loved one, lots of attention or to be given a wide berth.
– Choose the right moment. Pick a time when your loved one has time to talk, not when they are running late for work, getting the kids ready for school or burdened with a task. Often daily activities can provide a good opening to end of life conversations like after church, a weekend drive, or a movie about a similar subject.
– Give them a reason. It may help them understand by telling them why you have decided to talk about this now.
– Share your values. Your loved ones will have an easier time understanding your choices if you begin by sharing your personal thoughts, values and concerns. This allows them to understand that these are your personal choices and help them understand what is behind your choices. For instance, talk about what in life holds the most meaning for you; what makes it worth living; how you feel about death.
– It can be more than one conversation. Some family members may be very open to talking about your wishes and in fact even be waiting for you to initiate the conversation. Others may be more reluctant and less at ease talking to you about end of life care. It may take more than one conversation to express your wishes.