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How To Have A Conversation With A Loved One About End-Of-Life Arrangements

Published on May 13th, 2018

Freelance Contribution by Karen Weeks

Having a conversation with a loved one about their end-of-life arrangements can be overwhelming and can lead to anxiety, depression, and stress for everyone involved. Whether it’s due to a long terminal illness or advanced age, it can be extremely difficult to think about the next phase for your loved one, and it’s never easy to figure out how to begin.

One thing to keep in mind is that this topic should be approached with compassion and care. Remember, too, that there may be many people affected by these arrangements, so it’s important to take them into consideration as well. Think of the best ways to gently broach the subject so that you can help your loved one as much as possible during this difficult time, and remember to include your siblings or other close family members in the conversation when the time is right. If you’re unsure about timing, read this helpful guide.


Some ways to get started include:


Looking for an opening

You may feel at a loss for how to bring up making arrangements, so think about what your loved one’s needs might be. If they’re ill, ask them if there’s anything they want to talk about, or whether there is anything they need help with. Often, this will open up the path for a frank discussion about the next steps. If your loved one is of an advanced age, it might be helpful to ask whether there is anything they want to take care of or anything you can help them accomplish.


Finding comfort

If your loved one finds comfort in the church, talk to the pastor or priest in charge and ask about any ideas they may have about beginning the conversation. They may know of a sermon, song, prayer, or Bible passage that will help your loved one during this difficult time, or they may be able to make a home visit to give your family comfort.


Talk…and listen

For individuals who are facing the end of life, there are many conflicting emotions, and some can be overwhelming. They may be worried about how their family members will fare without them, or they may have a long list of things they wanted to accomplish. They may be in pain, either physical or emotional, and not know how to talk about it. Having a conversation with your loved one about their feelings is a great way to help them come to grips with the reality of their situation, but it’s important to listen to them as well. Let them vent, and refrain from using statements that are made purely for comfort, such as “You’re going to be around for a long time.” Doing so will only create false hope and diminish your loved one’s feelings.


Consider asking for help

For many people who are living with a terminal illness, hospice care is a wonderful choice. It allows for a measure of dignity while assisting with arrangements and end-of-life care. Do some research into local hospices alongside your loved one and find out about payment options and exactly what they offer.


Wills and advance directives

Ask your loved one if they have a will or advance directive in the event of their hospitalization. Having a plan may help them feel that loose ends are tied up and allow them to face the end without stress or anxiety. You can find more information on advance healthcare directives here.

Remember that your loved one may have a hard time talking and thinking about their end-of-life arrangements, so let them guide the conversation after you begin. If it’s too overwhelming for them, allow them to rest before you bring it up again, or try a different approach.

Joe Pioletti
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