Difficult Conversations: Estate Planning

Estate planning and talking about end of life issues is one of the most difficult triage cancer blog difficult conversations estate planningconversations to have with a loved one.  Nobody likes to think about their own mortality, much less make a plan for it.  Nevertheless, end of life conversations are vitally important for everyone to have.  The overwhelming number of people don’t have these conversations until a terminal illness is diagnosed, but sadly, anyone of us could find ourselves on emergency life support tomorrow.  Talk to your loved ones and make sure they are aware of your final wishes.

The term “end of life issues” does not just mean funeral arrangements.  In fact, the greater issues that need to be discussed are what the patient wants in terms of live saving measures.  Does the patient want to receive CPR?  Does the patient want artificial hydration or nutrition?  Not only should you talk about this, but the patient should complete an advance directive and make sure their families and their healthcare team have a copy.  There are other estate planning documents that should also be considered and completed. Check out our Quick Guide to Estate Planning for more information. You can also read previous blogs on estate planning topics.

Another important thing to discuss is where the patient would like to spend his or her last days.  Not just which bucket list activity they want to complete, but do they want to stay at home, in a hospital or maybe a hospice facility?

For a terminal cancer patient, there is another question that needs to be posed.  At what point does the patient want transition from treatment that attempts to cure the cancer, to treatments that attempt to mitigate symptoms and provide quality of life? This can provided through hospice care.  Hospice care can be given in home, in a hospital, or in assisted living – wherever the patient is.  Hospice care is about making the most out of whatever days are left, while remaining comfortable.  Hospice care can even include art or music therapy.

It is easy to say that these are crucial decisions that need to be discussed with loved ones, but it is much harder to start the discussions.  There are many resources for you to find inspiration on how to begin this difficult conversation.  Being around friends and family during the holiday season might provide some opportunities to have some of these conversations. Get these decisions and discussions out of the way, so you can move on to enjoying your time together.

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