End-of-Life Conversations: Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Death is inevitable. The moment you accept that truth, you would begin to see life through a different prism. Most people spend most of their lifetimes thinking that they would live forever. That is not an undesirable way to live life because it allows one to have fun. But there comes a stage when a person must realize that life needs to be planned, that time is finite and that it wouldn’t always be smooth sailing. There are thunderstorms and hurricanes, health ailments and financial doldrums and after experiencing all highs and lows of life, there is death.
People have different approaches to dealing with death. Some accept it while some take months to recover from the death of a dear one. While you cannot control the fate of your loved one, you can have the undesirable but necessary end of life conversation with your near and dear ones.
End of life conversations may sound to be unpleasant but they can be very rewarding. If planned and executed well, then end of life conversations can be empowering, satiating and filled with revelations. Before it is too late, you should initiate end of life conversations with your grandparents, parents and even the elderly can have this conversation with their adult children.
The Timing of End of Life Conversations
In an ideal world, anytime would have been a great time for such conversations as long as you and your dear ones are comfortable. But that doesn’t work in reality. You shouldn’t wait for your grandparents or parents to be diagnosed with a terminable disease or be at the intensive care unit to initiate the end of life conversation. You should initiate it much before.
The best scenario to have end of life conversations is when you are alone with your senior family member, having a relatively good time and you steadily steer the conversation with a few simple but insightful questions. You could be cooking, drinking, eating, just lazing on the deck or any other place and time that suit you.
Don’t have the conversation when either of you are seriously ill, something horrible has happened to the family, things are going south or it is not a comfortable moment for the discussion. Things have to fall in place. There will be cases where the conversations have never happened and the beloved person is on his or her deathbed. In such circumstances, you cannot help but have the conversation at the time. That is all the more reason why you should time the end of life conversations so you are not compelled at one stage, when having the conversation would no longer be as effective.
What should you talk about?
The most important context is to know what your dear one wants from life. There could be some unfulfilled desires, which may be possible to fulfill. There can be some desires that need to be carried out after death. A person may want some finer things or very little and otherwise insignificant things to be attended to. Discussing these will be heartening for both you and your loved one.
Then discussions can steer towards technicalities, such as insurance, taxes, property and assets, personal finances, power of attorney and other factors that are of relevance. One could also talk about the details of funerals. Families that have talked about funerals during end of life conversations have often planned them exactly as envisaged and it is certainly a more pleasant reality than grieving and not celebrating the life that was.
To put aside the inevitability of death for a moment, end of life conversations should focus on end of life caring as well. How does one want to be cared for in the final days, where would one want to stay, if he or she can make payments or how would the finances be attended to, what kind of role should other family members or immediate kin play and many such aspects can be discussed in end of life conversations. Many elderly people have preferred doctors, choice of caregivers and exact places where they would want to breathe their last.
One key element of end of life conversations is to address any existing disputes or source of discontentment. Having unresolved issues is not desirable for the dead or the living.
The Perfect End of Life Conversations
Adult kids talking about the wishes of their parents or grandparents, candidly talking about what is doable and what is not, making an attempt to have a better understanding of one another and that of life would always be a memorable conversation. Death is as real as life. Since we don’t shy away from talking about and living life, we shouldn’t shy away from talking about death either. Matured conversations will never be uncomfortable but they should be handled with care.