N AT I O N A L H O S P I C E A N D P A L L I AT I V E C A R E O R G A N I Z AT I O N
Communicating End-of-Life Care Wishes
hen it comes to creating memories,
the family is often at the heart of sharing in life events. We plan for weddings, the birth of a child, going off to college, and retirement. Despite the conversations we have for theselife events, rarely do we have conversations about how we want to be cared for at the end of our lives. With roughly 2.4 million Americans dying each year, it is important that personal conversations take place about the kinds of experiences you want for yourself and the wishes of your loved ones before facing an end-of-life situation. We know from research that Americans are more likely to talk totheir children about safe sex and drugs than to talk to their parents about end-of-life care choices.
Experts agree the time to discuss your views about end-of-life care, and to learn about the end-of-life care choices available, is before a life-limiting illness occurs or a crisis happens. By preparing in advance, you can help reduce the doubt or anxiety related to making decisions for yourfamily member when they cannot speak for themselves.
The time to communicate end-of-life care wishes is now when you and your loved ones are still able to communicate your choices. Review the steps below and share them with your friends and family to communicate end-of-life wishes.
Decide what you want for your own end-of-life care.
The following are simple steps toensure that endof-life care wishes are followed: • Draw up a living will of written instructions to share care and treatment wishes and preferences in the event you cannot speak for yourself. • Have a durable power of attorney in place that allows a person of your choosing to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so. Provide your family doctor with a copy of this document. Make sureto communicate your wishes to this person and make sure that this person agrees to assume the responsibility. Since every state has different laws it is important to use state-specific advance directives. Contact NHPCO to receive a state-specific advance directive. These and other advance directives can be useful tools for making end-of-life care wishes known, however it is just as important tohave personal conversations with family and loved ones about these issues.
Discuss Your Wishes Early
Discuss your end-of-life care wishes with family and loved ones now — before a crisis happens. The following can be used as opportunities for having this conversation: • Around significant life events, such as marriage, birth of a child, death of a loved one, retirement, birthdays,anniversaries, or college graduation; • While drawing up a will or doing other estate planning; • When major illness requires that you or a family member move out of your home and into a retirement community, nursing home, or other longterm care setting;
Discuss your wishes with your family and close friends.
• During holiday gatherings, such as Thanksgiving, when family members are present; or •When a friend or another family member is facing illness or an end-of-life situation. Whenever possible, include your children in these conversations, not just your parents, spouse or partner. It is never too early to start thinking about these issues. Have regular discussions about your views on end-of-life care, since they may change over time. And don’t forget to discuss your end-oflife carewishes with your doctor. Here are a few helpful pointers to keep in mind as you plan for having this conversation: 1. Do Your Homework Before beginning the discussion, learn about endof-life care services available in your community. Become familiar with what each option offers so you can decide which ones meet your loved one’s or your own, end-of-life care needs and wants. 2. Select an Appropriate...