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How to Talk About Tough End of Life Topics with Family Members

September 08, 2017 in: How to Talk About Tough End of Life Topics with Family Members,

Death is inevitable. However, talking about it makes the skin crawl – for most people – especially if it’s the death of a loved one. Whether your dying family member lives with you, or at an assisted living facility like The Palazzo, it is important to have that tough, end-of-life discussion with them; and here’s how you can do that:

How to Approach the Conversation

Approaching a topic like this can be tough. Talking about impending death can be nerve wrecking. The discomfort, sadness, and anxiety you feel while speaking on something as grave as the death of a loved one can more or less make you choke on your own words.

However, things become slightly easier when you rekindle the connection you have with them to create a comfort zone for both parties to face the truth.

Keep It Intimate

It may help not to have the whole conversation in one go, because it may get too overwhelming for you and that member of your family.

These people are looking for reassurances of the fact that they are loved and that they don’t have to fear abandonment. Always tell them you love them.

Don’t forget to thank them for everything they’ve done for you, for the precious moments you’ve shared together, and for them being such an indispensable part of your life.

Make it a point to apologize for the times where you have knowingly or unknowingly hurt them. It will lift a great burden off of your heart and will help you connect better with them too.

Address the Real Issues

Once you have established that connection with them that brings you in a shared comfort zone over the issue, it’s time to address the real issues.  

The Will

It may seem like an extremely materialistic thing to do at this point, but it is your responsibility to honor the last wishes of your dying family member. Hence, you need to talk about the will. Do they have one? Would they like to make one?

According to the law, it is the will that decides the future of every valuable thing owned by the deceased – their money, property, even pets. On the basis of the will, the court decides what goes to whom as per the wishes of the deceased person.

No verbal statements count.

Approach the matter methodically and find out if there is a will or not. If not, proceed with what needs to be done in order to make one while the person is still alive – with their consent, of course.  

The Advance Care Directives

Sometimes, a person’s health deteriorates beyond repair. They become vegetative – unable to make medical decisions for themselves. An Advance Care Directive allows the person to decide what course of treatment they wish to pursue in case they end up in such a state. It makes sure that the person’s end-of-life concerns and health care wishes are known, respected, and duly met.

Your family member might not have thought about it. It’s not something you wish to discuss, but the fact that you wish to have their wishes and concerns taken into account during their last days is an excuse enough to have this talk.


Remember to keep the conversation personal. You want them to know that no matter what happens, they will always be loved, remembered, and cherished.

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