Family caregivers are uniquely placed to have deep and meaningful conversations with those they care for. These talks can range from reflections on life, regrets or heartaches, joys and celebrations, faith, and end-of-life issues when the time is right for this discussion. These conversations are important to your aging loved one, so be sensitive to when the subjects can be approached gently and not feel forced or rushed. There are rich nuggets of wisdom and knowledge to be gained from thoughtful open-ended questions and encouraging comments to continue and deepen the discussion.
The conversation about the end of one’s life can be tender or awkward, depending on how the subject is approached and how the family caregiver reacts. My mother and I spoke many times about her final wishes, and usually she was the one to bring up the subject. She had a notebook where she kept items like a copy of her will, a list of people to call when the time came, her banking information and rough draft of her obituary. I would sit down with her at her dining room table and together we would talk through how she wanted things handled when her time came. She also had a living will, a Power of Attorney, and information designating my brother as her Executor. In her final days I got out the notebook and reviewed everything so I would know just what to do.
My brother had no clue what our mother wanted done because he would change the subject whenever she brought it up with him. He couldn’t handle thinking about a time when she was gone, so he just couldn’t let her explain everything to him. While I think it frustrated her, everything worked out because I was the one who knew everything that had to be done at the end.
Not everyone is comfortable having conversations about end-of-life issues, much less freelancing these discussions. There are many facets to consider and decisions to be made. Using this checklistmay help to navigate the conversation. AARP offers resources as well. Planning My Way is a good website for additional tools and clearly explains that by planning early you can feel empowered and your loved one can feel the dignity and respect of knowing that their closing chapter will be written the way they would like to be remembered. Having a knowledgeable attorney is also wise, but many choices can be determined prior to the first meeting with your lawyer.
Betsy and I hope you will join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how to approach end-of-life planning with your loved ones.