It’s Time to Talk about Your Wishes
I recently helped a woman complete her Advance Directive. The death of a friend a few months earlier and the news coverage of COVID-19 had her thinking about her own healthcare wishes at end of life.
Like many of us, “complete Advance Directive” had been on her on her to-do list for quite some time, but she hadn’t gotten around to actually completing the document or talking to her loved ones about her wishes.
As we reviewed the Advance Directive form together, we discussed her values around end of life including questions such as:
What gives your life meaning?
What is most important to you when you think of living well at end of life?
After she completed the Advance Directive form, I could hear the relief in her voice. She expressed how grateful she was to have “done the right thing to make caring for me easier for my family if something happens.”
It is important for every adult to document their healthcare wishes including identifying who should speak for them if they can’t speak for themselves and their preferences around life-prolonging treatments. In light of COVID-19, documenting healthcare wishes and holding these important conversations with loved ones feels even more crucial.
If you become very ill and can’t voice your own opinions, your loved ones and medical team must make important decisions about your care. These decisions may have serious implications on your end-of-life experience. Creating an Advance Directive and talking with your loved ones about your wishes helps ensure these wishes will be honored and, importantly, unburdens your loved ones from guessing about your preferences.
Here are some helpful tips adapted from the Conversation Project to remember as you plan to talk with your loved ones:
- You can prepare beforehand by writing a letter—to yourself, a loved one or a friend.
- Break the ice with helpful conversations starters:
- “I need your help with something”
- “I was thinking about what happened to ______ and it make me realize…”
- “Even though I am healthy right now, I’m worried that______, and I want to be prepared”
- “If you ever need to make decisions for me, I don’t want you second guessing about what I want. I want to make this less stressful for you by taking about it”
- Share your “what matters to me” statement by finishing the sentence, “What matters to me at the end of life is…”
- Be patient. Some people may need a little more time to think.
- You don’t have to steer the conversation; just let it happen.
- Nothing is set in stone. You and your loved ones can always change your minds as circumstances change.
- Every attempt at the conversation is valuable.
- This is the first of many conversations—you don’t have to cover everyone or everything right now.
Hospice of Santa Cruz County is here to help community members put their wishes in writing free-of-charge with downloadable forms and resources and individual Advance Directive phone consultations. You may also be interested in watching a recording of a recent Advance Healthcare Planning Webinar.
Vanessa Silverstein is the Community Education and Outreach Coordinator for Hospice of Santa Cruz County. She can be reached at 831 430 3047 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule an individual Advance Directive phone consultation.