Understandably, most of us do not want to address the subject of death with our families. It is an uncomfortable, scary, and emotionally charged conversation, and it is normal to feel intimidated by it. This is, however, not a reason to avoid the discussion. Even if you are lucky enough to have a healthy family, it is never too early to talk about end-of-life arrangements with the people close to you. These conversations will never be easy, but they can be quick and painless if you approach them properly.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best time to start having this discussion is when all parties are healthy and at no risk of illness. Talking to your spouse or parents while the realities of death still seem years away feels strange, but it makes the conversation less “real” and scary.
If a loved one is already getting older — or is ill — and the prospect of end-of-life care is closer, that is alright as well. Understand that they may not want to bring up the subject first. They may not want to seem negative, they may be in denial, or they may simply not like having awkward or emotional conversations. In these cases, it will be up to you to make it happen.
It is important to have some sort of structure. This keeps the conversation relevant and helps you avoid unnecessary — and potentially painful — detours. The Conversation Project, an initiative aimed at getting people to have this discussion, has a starter kit that you can print out or complete digitally. This has the benefit of serving as a written document for your conversation. For a more informal option, there are several card decks available designed for the express purpose of facilitating this conversation.
Essentially, you need to know how your loved one wants to grow old, how they want to die, and what they want to happen afterward. For each of these stages, there is a range of options which they need to be aware of.
- Growing Old: According to the AARP, about 90 percent of Americans intend to age in place, meaning they want to stay in their homes. Planning for this involves deciding whether their current home is appropriate for an old person and looking into the option of hiring a caregiver when they start needing help with basic tasks. The average cost of a caregiver is $21 per hour, so eight hours a week would total over $8,700 a year.
- Dying: How do they feel about life support? Would they prefer to keep trying treatment until the end or to get palliative care to die painlessly? Do they want to die at home? Who would they want there with them?
- After Death: It is essential to have a will ready as soon as possible. This not only outlines inheritance matters but appoints an executor to the estate and sets out plans for child guardianship, debt forgiving, and pet caretaking. You should also discuss funeral plans and find out how they envisage the ceremony looking like.
Last but not least, you will need to determine how they plan to finance all these costs. If they don’t have a plan at all, offer to help them come up with one. Aside from thinking about savings, they will need to get familiar with their insurance coverage, and potentially consider selling their life insurance to free up some money.
No one wants to have this conversation. It hinges on the acceptance that a loved one will die, which is difficult for all parties involved. However, death is an inevitable reality — you cannot prevent it by ignoring it. However, you can do everything in your power to ensure your loved one dies on their own terms, with dignity and agency, confident in their family’s ability to respect their wishes and safe in the knowledge that no one else will be burdened with difficult decisions.
Our guest blog is courtesy of http://standupforcaregivers.org