Tips for Discussing Living Wills With Family
If your loved one were to suddenly have an accident, slip into a coma or be diagnosed with a terminal illness, would you know what their wishes are? Would your loved one want all aggressive measures to be taken to try and save his or her life? Would he or she want to be kept alive on life-sustaining machines, or, would he or she want to be kept as comfortable as possible and allow nature to take its course?
These difficult questions are just a few examples of the questions that you could encounter when taking care of a loved one. If you have not discussed these with your loved one before an incident occurs, you may feel scared, confused and alone when trying to make these difficult decisions. At Cariloop, we never want you to feel like you have to go through caring for a loved one alone, so in this blog we are sharing some tips on how to start the conversation with your loved ones about Living Wills.
Bringing up the topic of Living Wills with loved ones can be very difficult. Most people are afraid to discuss topics such as death, accidents or illness. Although this discussion can be uncomfortable, it will be very beneficial in the long-run. You will not have to guess what your loved one wants, and he or she will feel confident that you already know and are acting in the manner that has been requested. Think of it as a gift that your loved one has given you.
What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is a legal document that provides instructions regarding the medical care a person wishes to receive if he or she becomes incapacitated or seriously ill and cannot communicate medical preferences on his or her own. A Living Will is not to be confused with a Last Will and Testament or simply a Will. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that provides instructions for what should happen to a person’s assets after his or her death.
How to start the discussion about Living Wills.
Some people can be very sensitive to this topic for any number of reasons. A great way to help start the conversation with these individuals is to use some type of event as a jumping off point–such as the death of a friend or neighbor, a relevant news event or even a TV show or movie. Ask your loved one what they thought about that event. Would they have done the same thing or would they have chosen to do it differently? Once your loved one starts to explain their wishes or beliefs, feel free to ask questions for more clarification. You can also share your own wishes so it becomes more of a conversation with your loved one, not an interrogation.
Another suggestion is to use hypothetical scenarios to help continue the conversation. For example:
You are driving to work when suddenly your car is hit by another vehicle that ran through a red light. You are unconscious, and a witness nearby calls 911. The paramedics arrive and work tirelessly to keep you alive and get you to the hospital. Once at the hospital, you are in surgery for hours while the medical team continues to try and save your life. Unfortunately, they cannot repair the damage. They stabilize you on machines until your loved ones arrive at the hospital. When they get there, the doctors deliver the bad news. What would you want your loved ones to do next?
Listed below are a few more helpful tips to remember when discussing Living Wills with a family member:
- Ask your loved one to start by thinking about the things that he or she does and does not want at the end of life.
- Remember that it is okay for you not to agree with your loved one.
- Know that you cannot predict every scenario. Try to keep the Living Will basic without too many specifics.
- Remember that this is a process and not something to complete quickly. Take your time.
- Write their decisions down based on your loves one’s own beliefs, values and preferences today and consider the future.
- If decisions change in the future, you can always change the Living Will or create a new one.
- Remember that it is never too soon to begin this process.
By Chrissy Schuster, LMSW, CCM