90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important.

27% have actually done so.*

Initiating conversation can make the best of us bury our heads in the sand. It becomes almost unbearable when you want to discuss end-of-life care, inheritance, the succession of power, and transition triggers.

The Conversation Project has created a guide aiming to make the task a bit easier. I find it’s most valuable feature is simply giving phrases to get the ball rolling:

  • Senior: “Even though I’m okay right now, I’m worried that______, and I want to be prepared.”
  • Caregiver: “I was thinking about what happened to _______ , and it made me realize…”
  • Spouse: “I just answered some questions about how I want the end of my life to be. I want you to see my answers. And I’m wondering what your answers would be.”

The guide then outlines a list of general questions that are perfect to continue the conversation. I recommend that these questions be supplemented with ones from the family, physician, and third party professionals where applicable (financial planners, attorneys, etc).

While it would be nice if this could all be completed in one quick conversation, it’s likely that the senior or family will need to mull over everything. It’s OK if the process takes some time and turns into more of an on-going dialog. Simply being able to broach the topic is an accomplish.

Please keep in mind…

As a child or caregiver, understand that the senior reaching out to you wants to ensure that their intentions are heard and understood. Take time to absorb the information being provided to you. Ask questions to confirm your understanding. Voice your own concerns and offer helpful suggestions for alternative arrangements. Keep an open heart.

As a senior, understand that the child or caregiver reaching out to you wants direction and guidance. They are not trying to be insensitive or selfish. The purpose is to put your best interests first, which has a better chance of happening if they know how you’d handle a difficult decision. If they suggest solutions for your care that are against your wishes, take the time to understand the reasoning and benefits of those solutions. Keep an open mind.

*Source: The Conversation Project National Survey (2013)