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Talking to Dad about End-of-Life Decisions

No one wants to talk about dying, but death is inevitable. And pretending your elderly father is going to live forever won’t help either of you prepare. It may be difficult for you to bring up end-of-life issues—but you may be surprised to realize he’s ready to talk about them, too.

Use these tips to start the conversation:

1. Talk about your plans
People of any age can have an accident, and you wouldn’t leave your family unprotected—so discuss your own plans with Dad as a conversation starter. Say, “I’m worried my family would have to make tough decisions if something were to happen to me now. Here’s what I’m planning.” You don’t even have to bring up his end-of-life decisions; discussing your plans may plant the seed and allow him to talk freely.

2. Bring up your feelings

Tell Dad that you’d be nervous making decisions on his behalf and you’d feel better knowing what his wishes are. Ask what he’d want to do if he was ever on life support, or if he has advanced healthcare directives that spell out his plans. Bringing up how you feel can show Dad that you care and want what’s best for him.

3. Talk about the future, not death

Reframe the conversation to focus on the future. For example, ask Dad what his preferences would be for housing. Is he planning on staying in his current residence or interested in selling his home and moving into a senior living community? Ask what he’d prefer to do if he could no longer travel or if his health changed dramatically. Bringing up the future is a way to segue into a deeper conversation about his end-of-life care.

4. Gather the family

Dad doesn’t have to be the only one in the “hot seat.” Find a time when your siblings and their spouses are together to discuss their plans in the event of an emergency. If everyone is talking about their end-of-life plans, Dad may feel more comfortable sharing his own decisions.

5. Discuss a loved one

Did a loved one pass away unexpectedly? Do you have a family history of a disease? The occasion of a death may provide an opening for discussing Dad’s plans.

Experts suggest the first conversation about end-of-life plans shouldn’t be the last, but instead should take place over time as you and your dad feel more comfortable with the topic. According to The Conversation Project, it should be discussed when any of the 5 D’s occur:

  • A new decade
  • After the death of a loved one
  • After a divorce
  • After any significant diagnosis
  • After any significant decline in functioning

If Dad has mentioned he’d be interested in finding out more senior living communities, talk to Life Care Services. Contact us today and to start a conversation about his options.

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