Conversations are important

Talking to your loved ones and your doctors about your healthcare preferences helps you to explore what kind of care you want at the end of your life. Thinking about these issues is important for people of all ages (not just older adults) because we can’t predict how long we will be able to communicate.

The way each of us understands life and death is unique to our upbringing, our education, our faith – as well as our hopes and dreams. In other words, we’re influenced by our pasts as we look toward our futures.

The conversations we have with our loved ones are deeply personal. They can be very difficult conversations to begin, in part because they can expose differences between us and the people we love. For example, a man who is suffering from a terminal illness may be ready to stop life-sustaining measures if he feels they are invasive or interfering with his ability to spend quality time with his family. His wife may be holding on to hope or just not ready to let him go.

As difficult as these conversations may be to begin, they can also bring about greater closeness and clarity about how we want to live our lives and spend our last days with our loved ones. If possible, having these conversations as part of the process of documenting your wishes can help everyone better understand the choices of an individual and what they will need from their family to ensure their wishes are respected.