How Do I Talk with My Children about My End-of-Life Wishes?

Your comprehensive estate plan will include documents about your wishes for end-of-life care. But talking with your adult children in person is an important chance to discuss some of the questions that they may have. This opportunity is especially important if you’ve named one of your children as your health care proxy.

There are many tough questions to ask yourself. How would you want to be cared for if you became incapacited? What are your beliefs about life and death? Do you want to receive medical treatment (beyond nutrition and hydration) if you’ve been pronounced brain dead? How do you feel about the balance of pain management and mental awareness? These are difficult questions to ask yourself and perhaps even more difficult to discuss with your adult children. But starting the conversation can bring you peace of mind today and make your loved ones’ lives easier in the future.

The conversation about your end-of-life care decisions may not be comfortable for you or your adult children. If the need is not pressing, here’s a gradual approach that may help.

Find Ways to Bring Up the Topic

End-of-life situations are all around us. Sometimes a news story captures the attention of the nation. If so, bring it up in your next conversation and you can begin sharing your perspective. Or be more direct. Ask your family to read the same book (or watch the same movie) on the topic of end-of-life issues. Then have a book-club style family discussion. Beginning the conversation this way, when the people facing the tragedy are remote or even fictitious, may be a way to lead-in to a more personal discussion.

Start Sharing Your Thoughts

If you have adult children, you likely have friends and family in your lives who are already facing these issues. If you child tells you that a friend’s parent had a massive stroke, you could take a moment to share how you’d want to be cared for if it were you. Or if you’re sharing the news of an older relative’s terminal cancer diagnosis, this is another way to start sharing your thoughts on how you’d want to be cared for. Encourage questions and answer them with detail. By doing so, you’re providing meaningful insight into your decision-making process.

Get Specific with Your End-of-Life Wishes

Now that you’ve started the process toward the difficult but important discussion, it’s time to get specific with your end-of-life wishes. Much of the end-of-life discussion is not black and white, which is exactly why the conversation is so important. Think about different healthcare scenarios. Share how your thoughts might change in different situations and why. For example, if you had a stroke and could no longer take care of yourself, and then your heart stops, would you want to be resuscitated? If the stroke also left you mentally incapacitated, would your answer be different? Would your answers change at age 60 vs. age 90?

It’s impossible to discuss every possible healthcare scenario. But expressing your thought process in these discussions will provide your children valuable insight about how decisions should be made on your behalf if the need arises. And keeping it a discussion that happens only with all your adult children present gives them a common experience to draw from.

Keep Current

Finally, be sure to revisit the conversation about your thoughts and feelings about your end-of-life care and the estate-planning documents that support them. Over the years, your perspective may change.

Work with an Experienced Florida Estate Planning Attorney

We help people prepare their healthcare documents and facilitate difficult conversations. Call 941-914-9145 to fill out our contact form and we will be in touch to schedule a meeting.