The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Having “The Talk” does not have to be hard or difficult, yet the talk does have to happen at some point in our lives. I’m not referring to the birds and the bees talk our parents have with us when we are adolescents. “The Talk” I am referring to is the talk we have with our loved ones about end-of-life wishes.
As a caregiver, one of our most important roles, if not the most important one of them all, is to be an advocate. How can one advocate if you do not know the wishes or desires of the person in your care? Richard and I always had the ability to talk openly about his wishes. In fact, our end-of-life conversation happened spontaneously; by the end of the conversation, our tears of love and joy were comforted by the knowledge that I knew exactly what he wanted. “I will tell you when I am ready for hospice” he bellowed…Yes you did!
Recently I had the opportunity to visit with Jack Tatar who has written a book called “Having the Talk.” “Having the Talk” focuses on ways to begin a family discussion earlier rather than later, about planning for the later life issues of a retired or retiring parent. Jack’s research demonstrated to him people have “the Talk”, but they have it too late, either when there’s little that can be changed, or after expectations have been set by siblings about “who gets what.” When this happens, families are torn apart, and loved ones who played together and protected each other throughout their entire lives now find themselves not talking to each other, usually all the way to their deathbeds.
Here is our recent episode of “Healing Ties” featuring Jack Tatar as we discuss how to have those difficult end-of-life conversation.
While I understand not everyone is going to be able to have the same experience of having “The Talk” like Richard and I did, let me share a few suggestions on how you might approach this delicate conversation:
- Always use open-ended question
- Don’t force the conversation, if there is strong resistance, back off and revisit it at another time
- Express the importance of the need for you to be comforted, knowing that by following their wishes, makes it easier on you
- Enlist the help of an objective third-party
- Use examples of family and friends.
- Learn about The Five Wishes
I believe there are two common aspects to caregiving that everyone experiences, there is a beginning and there is an end, and in most cases, we are not prepared for either one of these life changing events! It is difficult to plan for the unexpected, but having a plan in place does help temper the confusion when an emergency happens.
Have the talk…you will be glad that you did!
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