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Be prepared to talk about your end of life wishes. It’s an important part of advance care planning.

Have you thought about what you would do if you had to make end of life healthcare decisions for someone you love? Have you thought about what you would want if you couldn’t speak for yourself? Have you and your loved ones ever talked about end of life?

What if on your way home from the grocery store, your vehicle is hit by a large truck that ran a stop sign? Emergency personnel are called and they work heroically to keep you alive and get you to the hospital. Once at the hospital, you are in surgery for hours while medical staff deals with your life-threatening injuries. Unfortunately, they cannot repair the damage and you haven’t yet completed your healthcare directive. The doctors decide to stabilize you on machines until your family and/or loved ones arrive at the hospital. When they get there, the doctors deliver the bad news. What do you want them to do?

Prepare yourself to talk about end of life.Or what if you and your spouse had a wonderful 15 years of marriage but then a tragic accident took his/her life? While you were together, you talked about everything your hopes and dreams, daily frustrations, and your life together. You even talked about your end-of-life preferences. You know your spouse wanted to be cremated with his/her ashes spread in the exact location where you met. You still remember that conversation, how you both were laughing, but never really anticipating youd need to do it. Now, its real. Unfortunately, your spouses parents and siblings have told you, in no uncertain terms, their family does not believe in cremation and they will have a traditional funeral and burial ceremony at their church cemetery. You want to honor your spouses wishes, but you also respect his/her familys traditions. What do you do?

Prepare to talk about end of life choices with these tips:

  • Begin by acknowledging this is a process. It’s not something to accomplish quickly.
  • Begin by knowing your loved ones might disagree with you. That’s OK.
  • Begin by acknowledging you will not be able to figure out every possible scenario, so keep to basics and generalities.
  • Begin by thinking about your own beliefs, philosophies, values, and preferences in life today and into the future. Write them down as a way to continue to develop and add to them.
  • Begin by including loved ones in the planning and in the conversations as soon as you are comfortable. There is no rush. The key is to know your own wishes first.
  • Begin by recalling end-of-life experiences with a loved one. Use these personal memories to create the foundation for your healthcare directives.
  • Begin by understanding is never too soon to initiate this process.
  • Begin by thinking about both the things you do and you don’t want as part of your healthcare directive.
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