Practical Advice: Discussing End-of-Life Care with Your Family

Edited by Rory Clark

Discussing end-of-life care with your children can be an emotional conversation. However, keep in mind that your medical care is ultimately in your hands and that you should have a say in how your final days are spent. Be patient with family members and listen to their requests and wishes. Respectfully listen, but emphasize what you’re requesting and why it’s important to you.

What is End-of-Life Care?

Having an end-of-life care plan in place is a critical component of each client’s portfolio. End-of-life care is concerned with ensuring a patient’s physical and emotional comfort at the end of their life. 

Caregivers are typically not concerned with curing illnesses but rather with carrying out the patient’s wishes as death approaches. Is the patient more comfortable dying at home? Is the patient desirous of receiving life-sustaining treatment? These and other questions are addressed during discussions about end-of-life care.

Prepare Your Family For The Conversation

Before you thrust this delicate subject onto your children, discussing end-of-life care can be extremely difficult for some people, and it may be something your children have never considered. Introduce the topic by bringing it up and requesting time to discuss your wishes. By asking your children if they are comfortable with the subject being discussed, you give them time to process what it will entail.

Schedule a time to discuss your end-of-life care. This gives your family their own space to contemplate the subject before they sit down with you. Discussions like these can help to de-emotionalize the conversation and also gives you time to prepare. If your family objects to discussing your end-of-life care, gently remind them that it is a necessary subject for anyone at any stage of life.

Select The Appropriate Setting

When you sit down with your children to discuss end-of-life care, choose an appropriate setting. The fourth of July family gathering may not be the best time to discuss how you want your hospice care to be handled or who will act as your power of attorney if you become incapable of making your own decisions.

Rather than that, choose a quiet and comfortable setting with ample time for conversation. Before you begin the conversation, do some self-preparation. Consider every detail of how you want your end-of-life care to go. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to communicate your wishes to your family and friends.

Listen, But Remain Confident in Your Knowledge

When discussing end-of-life care with your children, it can be an emotional conversation. Be prepared to face opposition to your wishes. For instance, if you have a legal order in your estate plan directing doctors not to resuscitate you, your children may object, unable to comprehend your point of view.

Be patient with family members and listen to their requests and wishes. However, keep in mind that ultimately, your medical care is in your hands. You should have the option of how your affairs are handled at the end of your life. Respectfully listen, but emphasize what you’re requesting and why it’s critical to you.

What Kinds of Documents Should a Client Have?

The client’s end-of-life wishes should be legally documented in their medical power of attorney and will. The medical power of attorney designates who they want to oversee their medical care if they cannot do so, provides instructions on medical evaluations and treatments, expresses preferences for pain management and psychiatric care, and specifies the preferred location of care.

Each estate planning and elder law attorney is responsible for ensuring that their client’s wishes are documented via a valid medical power of attorney. Without a medical power of attorney in place, if a client becomes incapacitated, their family must seek guardianship in court. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process that does not guarantee the client’s wishes are carried out.

What Are Some Good Resources?

Talk To An Elder Law Attorney

When it comes to end-of-life care, you require more than a will to safeguard your interests. Consult an elder law attorney who specializes in estate planning to ensure you have all the necessary documents in order. An attorney can guide you through creating an estate plan that protects your assets, establishes power of attorney, and specifies how your medical care will be handled if you become incapacitated.

We care about our clients at The Legacy Elder Law Center and understand how difficult conversations about the end of life can be. We are here to assist you in ensuring that your wishes are patiently carried out. Contact us today.

About the author

Rory Clark

Rory has more than 30 years’ experience practicing elder law, estate planning, asset protection, Veteran’s affairs, and special needs planning. Through his personal journey, Rory not only understands the complex legal issues involved as a professional but also the intense emotional issues as a caregiver.