How To Prepare End-Of-Life Care

Julia Little  |  June 8, 2015

Starting a discussion about end-of-life care can be incredibly difficult. Many family members may not know what to say without offending their loved ones. However, addressing these matters now can help make things a little easier for you and others later on. Use these helpful suggestions on how to prepare for end-of-life care.

Why preplanning matters
Planning out details now can help you ensure that your loved one gets what he or she wants. Of course, this can be a responsibility to bear and yet it's becoming fairly common practice, according to researchers at the University of Missouri. The study authors looked into advanced care planning of families between 2002 and 2010. The researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study, which collects data from people nationwide over the age of 50. The data proved people's education and socioeconomic status had nothing to do with planning in advance. However, the research did show that people who had higher incomes were more likely to appoint a senior caregiver to deal with end-of-life responsibilities. Assigning someone to the job is crucial, especially if the person can't speak for him or herself.

"By engaging in advanced care planning, individuals make their preferences known in the event that they are unable to make a decision for themselves," lead study author Nidhi Khosla, Ph.D.,M.P.H., noted in the findings, published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. "This can reduce the stress caregivers and family members face regarding treatment decisions for a loved one who is severely ill or injured."

These changes may be the result of a national push to educate the public on the benefits of advanced planning. Research has also proven that older adults who discuss end-of-life care with their families go to the hospital less often and don't stay as long when they go.

How to discuss end-of-life options with seniors
While studies prove preplanning is common, it can still be difficult begin the conversation. Consider these easy tips on how to talk about end-of-life options:

1. Begin with permission
Don't stun a loved one by bringing up the topic randomly. Ask for permission to talk about end-of-life care, Caring Connections noted. Making sure he or she is prepared and willing to discuss the topic can help keep people calm and prevent emotions from arising. If your loved one isn't ready to talk about it right then, schedule a date to discuss it. Asking permission also shows that you're respecting his or her wishes, which can make him or her feel better about the concept. 

2. Involve the family
Time magazine suggested that if you have several other siblings, get the whole family together to generate the conversation. This way, you can assign who will be responsible for elder care and speaking on behalf of the older adult. This step is important - you don't want to have to decide during an emergency. Inviting family may also make this conversation easier to discuss when several opinions are offered. Make sure everyone is on the same page. Keep the conversation warm, and offer your support for the loved one whenever possible. Show your understanding, both verbally and physically - nodding, touching and even hand holding can help make a senior more comfortable. 

3. Don't let the person get talked over
With the family together, it's important to prevent opinions from clashing, according to Caring Connections. Remind all family members ahead of time that this is a mature conversation, not a debate. In the end, it's not about what the family members want, it's about what the loved one wants. Any time the senior offers his or her opinion, listen and try to understand it. Clarify anything that seems unclear. 

4. Address every detail
Time advised having a few questions prepared ahead of time so you don't forget anything. No stone should go unturned - ask about specific medical treatments, life support and even legal matters. By the end of the conversation, no one should have unanswered questions. Get all of these details in writing for legal purposes, and so you can remember it all.