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How to start a conversation about end-of-life preferences 

Older man on dark background looking off in the distance

Knowing your loved ones’ wishes on how they want to handle hospice care and end-of-life choices will help that time in their life go much easier. Beginning those conversations, however, may be very difficult. Being proactive and knowing who to contact, where to find information and documenting everything are some steps.

The Hospice Foundation of America has a list of questions that can help start the conversation. Here are just a few:

  • If you were diagnosed with an illness that could not be cured, would you still want to pursue every possible treatment, realizing that some could negatively affect your quality of life?
  • If you were unable to eat or drink due to a terminal illness, would you want artificial nutrition (often called tube feeding) and hydration (intravenously) even if it could cause complications and might not help you live longer?
  • How do you feel about an extended hospitalization or extended time in a nursing home?
  • Do you want to die in your home?
  • How much pain is acceptable to you?
  • Who do you want around you when you are dying?
  • What decisions regarding care do you want to entrust to others and who do you want to designate to make decisions?
  • Have you shared your care preferences with that person and taken necessary steps to ensure they are recognized as a healthcare proxy, sometimes also known as a medical power of attorney, substitute decision maker or spokesperson?
  • Do you want a funeral, memorial service, or obituary?
  • If you want a funeral or memorial service, what music would you want; who would you want to speak; are there passages from your faith beliefs, poems, or other readings that would be meaningful to you?
  • Would you want your body to be buried, cremated, donated to science?

 Some of these decisions can be overwhelming and it may take some time to put a plan in place. The important thing is to start, be respectful and understanding.