Having a conversation with a relative about how they want to spend their final stages of life is rarely easy. Whether it’s due to elderly age or a long-term health condition, talking about end of life care, while difficult, ensures that your loved one is able to live their last days in comfort.
By starting that dialogue, you can understand the different options for your family and how to support each other through the difficult time.
Why you might find it hard to talk about end of life
There are several reasons why it’s hard to discuss the end of our lives. It might make you feel awkward or even feel unable to accept that this final stage is approaching. Probably the most common reason however is simply being afraid. And that’s natural.
Fear can either be about the end itself or saying something which will upset your family and loved ones. In many instances, you might feel that professionals know what is best and rather than explaining what it is you truly want in your end of life care.
And of course, it’s very personal to be talking about dying, so if your loved one doesn’t quite feel ready to talk about it, don’t force them to and reassure them that you’ll be there for them if and when they do in fact feel ready.
Planning ahead for end of life care
End of life care is always about helping people to pass away with dignity, peacefully, and puts their wellbeing first.
Though it’s often difficult to talk about your final wishes, being open with your family and friends about these will allow you to come to the right decision for all of you, especially if you have a terminal condition.
Even if you’re fit and healthy, there’s still a case for discussing your options with your family. Because after all, circumstances can change in an instant and if you haven’t started looking into your options, it can be hard for your family to arrange the care you really want.
If you suddenly develop a serious condition, ask yourself if they know where you’d like to spend your final days (i.e. at home or in a hospice) and whether there are any treatments you’d refuse.
Putting plans in place sooner rather than later can also help doctors and other professionals involved in your care. For example, if it’s your wish that you don’t wish to be resuscitated, communicating this at the earliest opportunity will ensure that you can have the right treatment when the time comes.
Thinking with your head and your heart
As well as the practical aspects of end of life care, it’s also important to talk about the emotional side too.
This includes talking about funeral arrangements and where you’d like to be laid to rest, as well as other little touches to help your loved ones through the grieving process and hold on to the precious memories they’ll have of you all together as a family.
Another important question to ask about end of life care is about who will make your decisions for you, should you become unable to make these yourself for any reason. This is known as a lasting power of attorney, or LPA.
An LPA comes in two forms. Health & Welfare LPAs to decide on whether you need to move into a care home, your daily care routine, and other areas which will make your life comfortable. Property & Financial Affairs LPAs handle responsibilities such as the bills and collecting pension money.
Choosing an LPA requires a lot of thought and different factors to consider, the most important being trust. Gov.UK has some additional information about choosing who can act as your power of attorney.
Starting the conversation about end of life care
Getting the conversation about end of life care started might seem daunting and there’s sure to be moments when you feel uncomfortable with this topic. However, the important thing to remember is to let it flow naturally at a pace that you and your loved one feel at ease with.
Opening the door to this conversation is especially important for a loved one who has a progressive condition such as dementia or motor neurone, particularly in the early stages. It can help you both to come to terms with a diagnosis and start preparing for the care you might need later on.
Remember to listen carefully, paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication, and keep as calm as possible. And if you don’t feel as though you have anything to say, it’s completely fine to sit together in silence if it feels more comfortable.
If you’re ready to talk about end of life care for yourself or a family member, then we’re here to listen to you and help you through the difficult times.