Advance directives: Why you need to have these conversations with your loved ones
Talking about end of life care advance directives and living wills with your loved ones can feel like a difficult conversation to bring up but having the conversation now is important because it improves the care that they will receive at the end of their lives. An advance directive also called a living will is a document that outlines the types of care and treatments a person would like to receive after he is unable to voice his own wishes.
Imagine your father has suffered a debilitating stroke. His doctor says it's unlikely he will wake up and the health care team needs to know how to proceed. Do you know your father's wishes? Who is responsible for speaking on his behalf? An advance directive will provide you with these answers so you can ensure your father receives the care he planned for.
Become familiar with the available options
Encourage your family members and loved ones to learn about what options are available to them at the end of their life's journey. Their doctor can guide them through any questions they might have about these options. It's important to consider palliative care hospice care and which life-prolonging treatments they would like to receive or withhold. Help your loved ones to both write down their wishes and identify who will serve as their health care power of attorney — the person who will take over making decisions when they become unable to.
Know that you're not alone
You aren't alone in facing this challenging conversation — there are plenty of tools available like Reid Health's Deciding Together to help you gather your thoughts and approach the topic with your loved one. Among the resources you'll find a tool kit to help you get started.
Hearing the perspective of others who have had the advance directive conversation with their loved ones may be helpful in learning how to start the conversation yourself. The Conversation Project collects stories from children spouses siblings and others who have been there before. Reading and hearing about their experiences can help ease the anxieties you might be feeling about having this discussion and emphasize why advance directives are so important.
Having an advance directive and health care power of attorney helps lessen the burden of tough decisions as your loved one nears the end of his life's journey. Starting the conversation now while it may seem difficult at first may be easier than you think — and will bring you both peace of mind.