Tips for planning an end-of-life conversation – UCLA Health Connect

Thinking about death and dying can be difficult. Talking about it can be downright uncomfortable. But getting your affairs in order or knowing the wishes of a loved one can bring peace and allow you to enjoy your remaining time together.
While 90% of people think discussing end-of-life wishes is important, only about 27% have the conversation. Whether you want to share your wishes or learn about your loved ones’ preferences, having a plan can make the conversation easier.
We’ve put together an end-of-life conversation guide to help you navigate the discussion:
There are no hard and fast rules about when to talk to your loved ones about death and dying. But wait too long, and the discussion could happen under tense and stressful circumstances. 
Not sure when to share your end-of-life wishes? You might be ready if you contemplate the end of your life and make a mental “to-do” list of things you’d like to accomplish before then.
If you’re waiting for a loved one to share their wishes and preferences, let them know you’re there to listen whenever they are ready. Explain that it’s important to honor their wishes when the time comes, and you’d love to discuss those wishes soon.
There are a lot of decisions to be made regarding end-of-life care and wishes. Before exploring the topic with loved ones, gather your thoughts about what matters to you. 
The Conversation Project is a free resource from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). Their guides suggest questions to consider and prompts to help you put your thoughts on paper.
You may want to think about:
Even when you’re prepared, discussing death and dying may seem overwhelming. But remember, you don’t need to discuss everything in one conversation — this can be the beginning of an ongoing discussion.
While setting up an end-of-life discussion, consider:
An end-of-life discussion is about one thing: your wishes and preferences. But you may have to remind your loved ones and set that tone.
Consider opening the conversation with the statement, “What matters to me at the end of life is…” and fill in that blank to reflect your feelings. You can work on your statement ahead of time and practice it with a close friend, say it to yourself in the mirror or write it down. Having your opening words in place may help to ease any anxiety you feel.
Divide the conversation into three parts:
It should feel like a natural progression as you work through the decisions you’ve reached. Be patient if people get upset or need a minute to gather their thoughts. You can stop at any point and pick up the conversation another day.
Having the conversation before a medical crisis allows time to put end-of-life wishes into effect. After the meeting, the family should:
To learn more about creating an advanced directive, reach out to your primary care physician.