Having the Talk

Life is filled with things we don’t want to talk about but know we should. It starts with the birds and the bees and continues all the way to how we want to spend our last days on Earth.

For all the soul-baring people do on social media and talk shows, you’d think we would be more comfortable discussing end-of-life issues with people who mean the most to us. But we’re not.

In fact, 90 percent of people say talking with loved ones about end-of-life care is important but only 27 percent have done so, according to a national survey conducted by the Conversation Project.

The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people have “that” talk. It was co-founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Ellen Goodman after she was overwhelmed by the number and seriousness of the decisions she had to make when her mother’s health declined.

Avoid a Crisis

Don’t wait until there is a health care crisis to plan how to help your loved one. That’s the worst time to make financial and family decisions.

Talk with your loved one about what he or she envisions, and talk with your relatives about what help they can provide. Form a plan together that can be modified when it’s needed instead of starting from scratch during a health care crisis. An excellent place to start is Plan Your Lifespan. This is a website that will help you plan for health events from hospitalizations to memory loss and let you consider options long before you need them. Another resource is Five Wishes at agingwithdignity.org, an easy-to-use living will written in everyday language that can help start and structure important conversations about care.

Maybe the most important advice of all is to research your loved one’s financial situation so that you will know what services he or she can afford, if needed. A financially unrealistic plan is as bad as no plan at all.

  • Do they have a will, advanced directive or POLST?
  • Do they have long-term-care insurance? What does the policy cover? Is homecare included?
  • Are they eligible for veterans benefits?


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