Patient and Caregiver Resources

Talking About Your End-of-Life Wishes with Loved Ones

Speaking with your loved ones about your end-of-life wishes takes some thought and consideration. From their perspective, a conversation like this is about losing you, about recognizing that one day you will no longer be with them. But realize that by having this discussion, you are doing what’s best for you and your loved ones. You are not only ensuring your wishes will be carried out, but you are also removing future burden from them. You will be giving them peace of mind in the future by allowing them to take comfort in knowing they fulfilled your wishes.

Often, having a successful conversation about the end of life comes from helping your loved ones understand the “why” behind your wishes. Reaching this type of understanding requires openness and honesty.

Here are a few tips to help make the end-of-life conversation a bit easier…

Think about what you want

Begin by really thinking about what you want. It may help to consider your values, beliefs, and views about what matters in life. This will help you offer specifics to your loved ones and be able to answer their questions and concerns. Consider things like: How physically independent do you want to be? What level of comfort do you think you may want? (Full comfort, which may mean no consciousness? Or would you sacrifice some comfort in favor of maintaining consciousness?) Would you want lots of attention from your loved ones, or to be given more space.

Choose the right moment

Pick a time when your loved one has time to talk, not when they are running late for work, getting the kids ready for school, or burdened with a task. Often daily activities can provide a good opening to end-of-life conversations—like after church, a weekend drive, or a movie about a similar subject.

Give them a reason for the conversation

It may help your loved ones understand where you’re coming from by telling them why you have decided to talk about this now.

Share your values

Your loved ones will have an easier time understanding your choices if you begin by sharing your personal thoughts, values, and concerns. This allows them to understand that these are your personal choices and helps them understand what’s behind your choices. For instance, talk about what in life holds the most meaning for you, what you think makes life worth living, and how you feel about death.

Remember it might take more than one conversation

Some family members may be very open to talking about your wishes and may even be waiting for you to initiate the conversation. Others may be more reluctant and less at ease talking to you about end-of-life care. It may take more than one conversation to express your wishes.

Honoring Choices® Delaware is a nonprofit organization founded by Delaware Hospice focused on helping people make informed choices about end-of-life care that reflects their values and honors their dignity. Find out how Honoring Choices Delaware can help you navigate the difficult conversations about advance care planning.

Find out how we can help you and your loved ones live comfortably:

The region’s leading licensed nonprofit community-based healthcare organization, serving the entire state of Delaware and Pennsylvania’s southern Chester and Delaware counties.

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