How to Approach The Talk: Encouraging Your Loved Ones to Make End of Life Decisions

Talking about dying is hard. Sitting down and having a long conversation with a loved one about what they want to happen after they pass on can be emotional, both for you and for them. At the same time, it is a pivotal step toward ensuring that their wishes are met.

Unfortunately, most people do not have any sort of conversation regarding their own end of life care, writes the AARP. Their families and friends are instead left to guess what they may have wanted, a process that can be stressful for everybody involved. Here are some ways that you and your loved ones can avoid this situation, and broach this hard subject in a productive way.

Understand that it is a difficult subject
It is important to note that your loved one may not be ready to have this conversation as soon as you are. Thus, you should approach it with compassion and empathy and do your best to provide a comfortable environment for doing so. The way you conduct the talk can have a big impact on how valuable it is for both of you.

  • Seek permission: Make sure you have their consent before the conversation goes further. For example, you can open with, “Have you thought about how you would want to be remembered? Do you want to talk about it?”
  • Don’t rush the conversation: While you may have a lot of details you want to discuss, it’s important to let your loved one talk about things at his or her own pace. Nod your head, offer comfort, and maintain a warm and comforting demeanor as he or she talks.
  • Listen: Verbally acknowledge that you understand what your loved one is saying to you. Make sure your body language is underscoring the fact that this is a conversation stemming from genuine concern and that their ideas and goals are the most important things to consider.

Approach the conversation early
Decisions should be made even before illness is a concern. End of life care requires careful planning and a lot of choices, and if you wait until sickness has already struck, then it could be too late. In addition, many conditions impair the mental faculties of the person affected, making it more difficult for them to take an active role in the process. Illnesses can cause stress, and the worst time to make tough, objective choices is when you are worried about somebody for whom you care.

Involve a doctor in the conversation.

Involve a doctor in the conversation.

Involve a doctor
If you have chosen a course of action, it makes sense for a physician to be involved. Yet, found the AARP, up to 75 percent of doctors of patients with advance directives were completely unaware that the patients had them. Of the ones who did know, less than half were consulted when those directives were drafted.

Involving a medical professional in the process as early as you feel comfortable increases the likelihood that your loved one’s wishes will be followed. It ensures that everybody is on the same page and allows both you and the doctor to ask any relevant questions before a crisis is at hand. The AARP said that those patients who did consult a physician were less likely to be scared or anxious, felt like they had a more direct say in their own care, thought that their wishes were better understood, and were overall more comfortable with the process of funeral planning.

Consider your unique circumstances
No two families are exactly alike. You should approach the conversation in a way that makes sense for the relationship that you have with your loved one. Some people may feel more comfortable opening the topic with a written letter. Others might be most at most ease over a cup of tea.

End of life care is not an easy subject to discuss. However, it is important. While every detail may not be settled in a single conversation, keeping open lines of communication is vital to ensuring that you and your loved ones are completely on the same page.


The Neptune Society is the nation’s oldest and largest provider of affordable cremation services. Whether you have an immediate need or want to plan cremation services in advance, we are always available to assist you and your family.

Call 1-800-NEPTUNE (800-637-8863) today or contact us online to learn more.