How to Have an End-of-Life Conversation with Seniors

Author: Robert Jo

No one wants to think about their aging loved one’s end-of-life. Many view bringing up the subject as tacky or disrespectful. Some equate it with appearing greedy or trying to edge out other family from the decision-making process. Others even see it as bad luck.

But planning ahead for seniors’ final time on earth is critical to making sure that their wishes are honored. Sure, having this conversation is hard, but it’s also one of the most important things you can do for your loved one. And yet, most people struggle with how to approach the topic, while others simply put it off indefinitely.

Denial doesn’t help
We all know that, at some unknown time, we will all face our end-of-life. But many of us just can’t face it happening to those we love. Denial won’t make it go away. We can ignore death, but death will not ignore us.

It’s impossible to know the wishes of a senior unless you ask. Be ready to accept the answers, if you are willing to ask the questions. Often, the wishes of a loved one may be surprising or even upsetting to you. The important thing is that your senior’s wishes are honored, not that you agree with them. Be sure to have your loved one put these wishes in writing to avoid any confusion later on.

Being proactive about an end-of-life conversation can protect not only your senior, but your family as well. The last thing you need while dealing with the death or approaching death of a loved one is the stress and uncertainty of deciding (or arguing about) what your loved one would want.

What, exactly, is end-of-life?
End-of-life is more than the actual end of a person’s life. It’s to do with the care and support we will need or agree to receive as our physical bodies move toward death. How long this will take depends on many factors such as age, type or severity of illness or injury, etc.

When talking to loved ones about their wishes, you will need to know things like:

  • Whether or not to continue certain medicines or treatments
  • Where do they want to spend their final days
  • What types of treatment they want to receive
  • What sort of palliative and/or hospice care they want to receive

Starting the conversation
As with all difficult things, the first step is usually the hardest to take. Seniors and their loved ones alike have a hard time starting an end-of-life conversation. Usually fear of how the other will react to the subject matter prevents talking about it. Don’t be timid. Broach the subject. After all, it’s more important for you to protect your loved one than for you to be unafraid.

But how to actually broach the subject? You can seek wisdom from your pastor or doctor, or even from a trusted friend who has been through the same situation. You can even search the web for ideas.

The Conversation Project is a non-profit organization which helps people talk about end-of-life wishes. Visit their website for a great free guide. It’s called a Conversation Starter Kit. This tool can make it easier for you and your senior to have a thorough and successful end-of- life conversation.

The nitty gritty
None of us knows when end-of-life will happen. We only know that it will happen. So if you are a beloved senior and have not told your family your wishes for end-of-life, get on with it. You will ensure you get the care you want and protect your family at the same time.

If instead, you a family member of a senior and have no idea if your loved one has even thought about end-of-life, much planned for it, make time to discuss it with them while they are still able to choose what is to happen to them when the time comes.

Browse our blog for more caregiving tips. For professional assistance in caring for your loved one, please call Home Helpers today.

Home Helpers of San Ramon is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, Alzheimer's & dementia care as well as homemaker services in San Ramon, Danville, Diablo, Moraga, Pleasanton, Castro Valley, Sunol, and Dublin.



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