ARTICLE: End of Life Care: How Do I Talk with My Children about My Wishes?

End of Life Care: How Do I Talk with My Children about My Wishes?

If you become incapacitated, how would you want to be cared for? What are your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about life and death? Would you want to receive any medical interventions after you’ve been pronounced brain dead? How do you feel about the balance of pain management and mental awareness? There are many tough questions to answer for yourself that may be even tougher to talk about with your adult children. But having the conversation can bring you peace of mind today and make your loved ones’ lives easier later.

Your comprehensive estate plan will document your wishes but talking with your children is an opportunity to clarify some of the questions that may not have an apparent answer in a static, written document. This opportunity is especially important if one of your children is designated as your health care proxy.

Delving into a discussion about your end-of-life care decisions may not be comfortable for you or your adult children. If the need is not urgent, here’s an approach that may help you ease into the conversation.

Open the Door to the Topic

Find a way to start an arms-length discussions about end-of-life situations. Sometimes a heart-rending local or even national news story raising end-of-life care captures our collective attention. Bring it up in your next conversation and you can begin sharing your perspective. Or take a more direct approach. Choose a book (or a movie) that deals with end-of-life and ask your children to participate. Once, after everyone’s had a chance to finish, have a book-club style family discussion. Starting the conversation this way may get everyone more comfortable with the topic.

Share Your Thoughts

If you have adult children, chances are you’re of an age that you have people in your lives who are already facing these issues. So, when you tell your children about their second cousin’s rapidly progressing dementia, you could take a moment to share how you’d want to be cared for if it were you. Encourage their questions and answer them with detail. When you do so, you provide a valuable insight into your decision-making process.

Talk about Your Specific End-of-Life Wishes

Now you’ve paved the way to have the difficult but important discussion. Here’s a potentially comfortable conversation starter. Are you an organ donor? You’ve probably already designated this decision on your driver’s license. That’s an unambiguous place to begin. You’ve checked the box, or you haven’t.

Much of the end-of-life discussion is less straightforward, which is exactly why the conversation is so important. Think about different scenarios and share how your thoughts might change in different situations and why. For example, if you are left unable to physically care for yourself after a stroke and then your heart stops, would you want to be resuscitated? If the stroke also left you mentally incapacitated, would your answer be different?

It would be impossible to discuss every possible healthcare situation but sharing your thought process in this conversation will give your children critical insight about how decisions should be made for your medical care if the need arises.

You May Change Your Mind

Revisit the conversation about your thoughts and feelings about your end-of-life care and your estate-planning documents that support them. Over the years, you may change your mind about some things. It’s important that your children know how you want to be cared for at all stages.

Work with an Experienced Corning Estate Planning Attorney

We help people prepare their healthcare documents and facilitate difficult conversations. Call Roth Elder Law, PLLC today to schedule an initial meeting at 607-962-6162 or complete this intake form and we’ll be in touch.

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We at Roth Elder Law, PLLC, believe in providing services in a way that clients can easily understand and meaningfully participate in designing and maintaining their estate plan for their loved ones, as well as be assured that their plan will be administered according to their wishes.