It isn’t necessarily that these types of conversations always have to be negative, but the topic is known to cause people to express all sorts of emotions, fears, and anxieties. Individual circumstances and health conditions can also affect how well a conversation can go or how difficult it might be.
These challenges that may be faced are why the team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is always happy to talk to patients and their families about this potentially touchy topic, including different care options and various resources in the local community.
According to the AARP, the topic of “end of life care” is important and can have a financial impact on more than one generation in some households, but it’s also a conversation that not enough people have.
Here are some reasons why this can happen, along with some ways to make these conversations between family and loved ones useful and helpful, rather than unhappy and painful.
General lack of knowledge of or interest in discussing death. Our culture, unfortunately, doesn’t like to think about the end of our lives. Although it makes logical sense to have everything planned out ahead of time for our final days and beyond, some people just don’t want to think about this eventuality.
Having specific plans, or at least general wishes expressed or written down, for the possible end of life care can go a long way in creating peace of mind for you and for those around you. It will make your wishes clear in case people wonder or dispute “what you really want.”
If you have a family member in this situation who doesn’t want to think about their own mortality, you may be able to convince them to at least create a specific plan, or at least have their general wishes expressed or written down. This can go a long way in creating peace of mind, make their instructions clear and avoid disputes in case people wonder “what they really want.”
Unexpected change in health. Perhaps someone has been in great health and hasn’t wanted to consider end of life topics, anything from funeral arrangements to what life support decisions may need to happen in a hospital. But it only takes one unexpected medical situation to change this. Perhaps a bad fall or a stroke may require someone to need to alter their lifestyle or even their living situation on a temporary or a permanent basis.
If someone still wants to live at home independently, they may now need a caregiver or regular visits from home health care professionals. Or they may need to move to a rehabilitation center for a certain amount of time and then make changes at home when they return. Or they may need to consider a move to an assisted living center, something that people who enjoy their independence often don’t want to think about.
Family concerns. Even if someone feels comfortable with their current set-up, family members may still want to have these discussions or at least occasional check-ins if they begin to worry about someone’s safety. These conversations when there’s nothing urgent will still be tricky but remove some of the stress and pressure that might increase anxiety and stress levels.
This approach often helps to make it easier to discuss as a family.
The opposite is also true: family members who rarely get together may face challenges discussing the welfare and living situation of a loved one. They may feel guilt or uncertainty especially if the person they’re discussing isn’t able to be part of the discussion due to health conditions.
If a medical situation does require relocating to a different residence, people prefer to have more time to look at temporary or permanent assisted living locations rather than having to decide something quickly. Being able to take more time can put effort into the opportunity to better research different care options, not feel rushed and find something satisfactory for everyone.
This would also be a good opportunity to make sure all those directly affected are aware of different roles such as who has power of attorney and who is the executor.
Finances. If someone only looks at dollar signs, or bases a lot of their decisions primarily on costs, then it also makes sense to figure out end of life care early. Many funeral homes will encourage people to plan ahead for their funeral service and burial while they’re still living. This strategy usually saves money and also tells survivors/family members that everything is taken care of, so they can focus on their grief rather than taking care of the little details and making guesses.
End of life care also can be costly but savings may be found if someone makes these decisions in advance such as where to live if relocation is necessary or what kind of home care services are available locally.