Talking about illness and end of life issues is uncomfortable for most people, even for medical professionals. Within a family, it can create much anxiety and stress. But, silence can be even worse. If your loved one can no longer communicate their needs and desires, how will you make decisions that honor their wishes? What if other family members don’t agree with those decisions? It may be uncomfortable now, but imagine how much worse it would be to second guess what mom would have wanted when your brother is pushing for one treatment and your sister for another. Imagine asking your mom to go by dad’s written wishes when she wants to follow her heart.
Many people do not put their wishes into writing and, if they do, they don’t communicate their wishes to the entire family. It’s often only when the worst case scenario happens that discussions happen, when it’s the worst time possible for people to think things through and find agreement. Legal professionals, family counselors and clergy all agree that the time to talk through options is early, when a serious illness is discovered. It’s not just creating a will and assigning someone to make medical decisions. It’s a time to talk about how people want to live, what treatments they want and don’t want, and what they want their family to do.
Remember that things change. If you have begun to discuss things early and keep having discussions along the way, you can make adjustments to the plan.
Our team will help you and your family to begin difficult conversations, be a resource for the information you need to make decisions, help you communicate, and support your family emotionally and spiritually. Here are some of the things you’ll want to work on:
- Have you discussed various treatments?
- Under what conditions should you stop treatment?
- Has the entire family been informed about wishes and desires?
- Is the doctor aware of wishes and desires?
- Who is going to make decisions and speak for the patient if they can’t speak for themselves?
- Is that person fully informed on what that means and the legal responsibilities?
- Is there an advance directive such as a living will or durable power of attorney for health care?
- Have you talked about possible organ donation?
- Is there a will?
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has some excellent tips:
Talking with Your Loved Ones. CLICK HERE
What to Do if Family Members Disagree CLICK HERE
Talking with Others about Their End-of-Life Wishes CLICK HERE
NPR, July 22, 2015, Intensive End-Of-Life Care On The Rise For Cancer Patients by Michelle Anderews
I’m a doctor. Preparing you for death is as much a part of my job as saving lives, by Shoshana Ungerleider, October 19, 2015