The FAMCare Blog

How to Discuss End-of-Life Arrangements with a Loved One

Posted by Harry Cline on Jan 4, 2019 9:21:53 AM

Loved One Conversation

Throughout life, we may find ourselves having difficult conversations with our loved ones. There is never an easy way to approach these, and some can be upsetting to even think of. Discussing end-of-life arrangements is perhaps one of the hardest to reconcile, yet it can be one of the most important conversations we can have.

Research Arrangements

Before having a conversation as sensitive as this one, it’s wise to do your research. You don’t have to become an expert on end-of-life arrangements, but it will help keep the conversation productive if you’ve done some research on end-of-life treatment and care options. This could involve you looking into palliative care and hospices, or how quality of life can be maintained at home. You could investigate legal matters, like the implications of a power of attorney, long-term care insurance, and a living will. The latter is part of a broader system known as advanced healthcare directives. These may vary by state, so take into account your loved one's future residency plans.

Bringing Up The Subject

By its nature, discussing end-of-life arrangements can be upsetting, but it does not have to be overwhelming. Before approaching your loved one, be sure that you are emotionally ready. Choose a comfortable location, either in your home or elsewhere, that fosters a sense of calm. Above all, ask for permission to have the talk. It may be a good idea to turn your research into a checklist, which will help keep the conversation productive. Look it over before you approach your loved one so that nothing important gets overlooked or neglected. Frame the discussion as you would any emotional conversation, and talk about basics, like treatment and funeral arrangements, what the options are, the nature of their will, and how they would like to be memorialized.

Accept Their Wishes

Listen throughout the conversation. Don’t speak out of turn, and show understanding through nodding and hand holding. Take breaks to avoid becoming overwhelmed. You will find out some of your loved one’s most personal wishes. You may find that in the event of a terminal illness, they do not want treatment. Your loved one could reveal that they want to be cremated and their ashes spread in a particular area, or that they have more unconventional arrangements in mind. They may have different ideas than you regarding a power of attorney, or may feel it could be an emotional burden on you. If you feel otherwise, express your feelings sensitively, but avoid debates. It’s important that your loved one be aware that you respect their choices, and that you are thankful to them for agreeing to have the conversation.

Look At Options Like Life Insurance For Future Expenses

This may be the most difficult aspect of any conversation we can have with our loved ones. Without the proper planning and preparation, funeral expenses can really add up. This can cause a great deal of stress and financial strain that can make the mourning process even more devastating. As with all parts of the conversation, approach it with sensitivity and discretion. Discuss ways of saving for a funeral, including prepayment or starting a fund. There are also various insurance policies that you and your loved one could take advantage of to lessen the financial impact. Burial (also known as final expense) insurance is becoming an increasingly popular life insurance choice for seniors, largely because it doesn’t require a health questionnaire. Policies typically fall between $18 and $286 per month, and can cover only your funeral-related expenses or other bills you leave behind, such as hospital stays and legal fees. If your loved one has a traditional life insurance policy, selling it could be another way to free up cash for funeral expenses.

This will not be an easy conversation, but by planning ahead, you can ensure that whatever is chosen will be most reflective of your loved one’s choices. It may be wise to write up a funeral plan with your loved one and provide copies to lawyers or other family members.

We care deeply about our loved ones. Thinking about end-of-life arrangements is not easy, but having the conversation can make their wishes clearly understood and appreciated. A conversation like this can be daunting, but with the right preparation and plenty of sensitivity, it can be a significant and meaningful exchange.

Guest post by Harry Cline of The New Caregiver

Topics: Elderly/Aging Long Term Care, human kindness, healthcare

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