Although it is a sobering experience to discuss mortality openly with your family, it is prudent. No one relishes the thought of their demise, and yet with forethought, you can ensure that your estate plan and your healthcare arrangements best reflect your wishes. It is essential to prioritize these discussions with your loved ones and follow up on implementation with your elder law attorney. Careful consideration of how and who you prefer to handle your medical decisions and proper legal documentation that permits these actions will provide you some peace of mind. If you are unsure of the scope of these discussions, meet first with your attorney, who can provide you with a framework of necessary topics.
Having a Conversation with Family About End-of-Life Care
Preparing to have these conversations will likely lead to thoughtful outcomes that will be extremely beneficial for you and your family. Broach the topic openly with your family and get a sense of how well they handle the delicate topic. Request a specific time a couple of weeks out to provide family members the time for reflection in their own space to process what the meeting will entail. You may have been thinking through this topic far more than your children. It is best to discuss in person, but some family members may live far away, and even if they are local, in the era of COVID-19, your meeting may need to be virtual.
If you can meet in person, opt for a quiet and comfortable space, and whether virtual or not, leave plenty of time for everyone to express themselves fully. As the focal point of the meeting, you should prepare your thoughts and wishes to express them concisely and with some structure to ensure your cover all necessary topics. It is good to speak your thoughts out loud to yourself, even in front of a mirror. Saying words aloud in preparation will help you stay pulled together and address your tenor and tone. Keeping yourself grounded emotionally during this talk is vital to help your family members do the same.
Be prepared for the unexpected in terms of your children’s responses. They may push back on some of your wishes. For example, if you have a medical directive requesting a do not resuscitate (DNR) order, your children may have difficulty accepting your perspective. Adult children often have trouble imagining a world without you as they rely on you, and they may fear being the “next” in line to face their mortality. Ultimately your medical care rests in your decision-making hands, but exhibit patience and hear out the requests and wishes of your loved ones. You may have to respectfully disagree with their point of view by re-emphasizing your needs and why they are essential to you.
The Importance of Addressing Your Power of Attorney
Be clear about your power of attorney and power of medical attorney choices in your meeting. You may have already selected these representatives but need to explain your thought process, or you may need to identify who among your loved ones is most capable in these positions. Beyond identifying these willing representatives, you must follow through with the legal documents that will permit them to perform their functions when the time comes.
This conversation is also an opportunity for you to smooth any ruffled feathers about who you choose as legal representatives and shape a future of goodwill among your family members. In concluding the meeting, provide a recap of decisions made so that everyone is clear. Loved ones in emotionally charged discussions may hear things differently, so everyone must understand each other. Always end on a positive note.
After your meeting concludes, it is time to schedule with your estate planning attorney to formalize your plans. Their expertise can guide you, ensuring your wishes are honored. Once all necessary legal documents are in place, your task is complete. If you have a change of heart about a particular decision, you can amend your documents in the future. A routine review of your estate and medical planning is prudent, especially if there are changes within the family system. Proactive planning about your end-of-life care can free you to focus on living today without worrying about tomorrow.
No Legal Advice Intended. This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues or problems.