These Are My Wishes: How to Make Sure Your Family Knows Your Plans for End-of-Life Care
Putting off end-of-life conversations with your family is common. Even if you’ve reached a place of peace and acceptance, you may not want to make your loved ones face the pain of imagining you gone. However, discussing end-of-life details early on can make those final weeks and days easier. Your family will know your wishes, and you can rest assured that your desires will be met. Most of all, because you will have already made arrangements, you can spend time focusing on enjoying precious time with one another.
Starting the conversation will most likely be the hardest part of the process. Once you and your loved ones get your feet wet talking directly about end-of-life issues, however, you will find it easier to continue the discussion.
Set up a time to talk so all parties can be present. If your family is spread out geographically, a holiday gathering may be the only practical solution. If your health is declining too quickly to wait, you may have to hold a special meeting, even if done through a group call or video chat.
While your family may prefer having the discussion in person, it’s better to make sure it gets done, even if the setting isn’t ideal. You may even opt to write an email that explains your wishes in detail; the extra layer of technology may help buffer the difficulty of the conversation. Remember, there is no one right or wrong way to approach the discussion. What matters most is what works for you and your family.
What to Cover
Make a list or outline of the main points that need to be covered, such as where to find information about your will or life insurance. (Ideally you will have these materials set aside and organized for your family.) Include your specific wishes in regards to end-of-life medical care, such as DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, feeding tubes, and ventilators. This information is usually included in an advance healthcare directive, or living will.
Your living will, unlike your last will and testament, states what you want to happen medically before you die. You may direct to receive palliative care, or care that decreases pain and suffering, but not procedures that will prolong your life. Your living will may also be used with a durable power of attorney (DPOA), which names a healthcare agent or proxy who will carry out your wishes if you are no longer able to communicate.
After discussing your wishes for end-of-life care, be equally intentional with setting up additional occasions to spend time together. Whether going through pictures, watching family videos, or telling favorite family stories, you and your loved ones will treasure these bittersweet times of reminiscing and expressing your love for one another.
Hospice of North Central Ohio can help prepare you for expressing your wishes to your family. As you think through the issues, don’t hesitate to use us as a resource. Find out more about us here, or give us a call: 800-952-2207.