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Importance of Talking to Family About End-of-Life Wishes

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Importance of Talking to Family About End-of-Life Wishes

November 30
19:00 2017

Did you know that requests for living will documents often increase at Thanksgiving time through to the New Year? One company who handles this says this is their busiest time of year for handling requests for living will documents.

It’s often thought about because during this time of year older family members get together with the younger members of the family. This seems to have the impact of reminding us that we’re getting older and need to plan for the inevitable.

Do you know what you want in case you get a serious illness or are seriously injured? Do you want medical professionals to do everything they can to save you or keep you alive or do you prefer a DNR (do not resuscitate)?  What happens if you suffer a stroke or something that leaves you severely disabled, but yet still alive? What kind of care do you want then? Do you have someone you trust to make those decisions for you if you aren’t capable of making them yourself?

Many of us older people think of these things but how many actually act on putting it down in a legal document such as a living will?

Making a living will is a great first step, but it’s not the only step you need to take to ensure that your wishes or desires are met. You need to make sure someone knows where you keep you living will and your other will, in case of your death, but that’s still not enough.

As hard as it may be, you need to convey your end-of-life wishes to your family and there is no better time to do so than when they are gathered together over the holiday season.

Ellen Goodman, Co-Founder of the Conservation Project says:

“People come home for the holidays. It’s one of those times when we’re together. It’s something that’s important to talk about.”

“You can talk about what your values are, who you want to make decisions for you, the care you want, the care you don’t want.” 

Dr. Patricia Bomba shared that her family makes this a priority at this time of year. She shared:

“After the dinner dishes are cleared, the adults in our family stay at the table and talk about what matters most in our lives.”

Her family joke is: “There’s no pumpkin pie until you tell me how you want to live until you die.”

Paul Malley, President of Aging with Dignity, says it’s important to include as many family as possible:

“Don’t just put your grandparents in the hot seat. It makes for a better and easier family conversation if everyone is in it together.”

“It’s a natural time to discuss which one of us boys do you want to be your health care agent? My parents are teaching us about advance-care planning by doing this together as a family.”

Just making out a living will is not enough say many in the field. It’s important to convey your wishes. Jeannette Koijane Executive Director of the Hawaii Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Honolulu shared:

“Just checking the boxes is not what makes the difference. It’s the conversation that makes the difference.” 

If your elderly family members don’t bring up the subject, then find a way to do so in a tactful manner that lets them know you care and aren’t in a hurry to see them dead, as sometimes it can come across to them. Speak with love and concern. It can be a time now only to share your wishes and desires, but many say these conversations help make a family closer to each other, which is always a good thing.

If you’ve never done this, then think about this holiday season. Perhaps get living will documents and help your elderly family members fill them out and at the same discuss their wishes and values, but always do it in love and compassion.

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