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How to Talk about End-of-Life Care

There is no right or wrong way to discuss end-of-life care with your loved ones. These are some suggestions of how to start the conversation:

  • Talk about someone else's end-of-life care first.
    Talking with your parents, grandparents, or spouse about their wishes for care at the end of life may make it easier to express your own final wishes. A suggested opening line is, "If you ever got really sick, I would be afraid of not knowing the kind of care you would like. Could we talk about this now?"

  • Use a news event as an icebreaker.
    Use local or national news headlines about end-of-life decisions or the death of a prominent person as a starting point to voice your opinion regarding, "If that were me..."

  • Give yourself time.
    Make sure you have at least 30 to 60 minutes for a meaningful conversation. And remember that the discussion will be ongoing and not completed in the first conversation.

  • Begin your conversation soon after a serious illness.
    If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it may not be terminal, but it is important to begin talking about what you would want if the condition were to worsen.

  • Talking after the death of a relative, friend, or co-worker.
    Wait a few weeks or month until the grieving process is over, and then talk about the person's illness and death in relation to your own beliefs and values.
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