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It's Never Too Early To... Communicate your wishes

Patient and partner talking about wishes

It’s easy to see why people might avoid this difficult subject. You might worry about upsetting the person you talk to, fear the subject, or not know how to bring it up.

We know that when people have these meaningful conversations about the experiences they want for themselves or their loved ones as the inevitable end-of-life draws near, the better for all involved. Too often, such conversations are avoided out of an understandable desire to spare each other’s feelings. The best time to have such discussions is before a life-threatening illness occurs. This can greatly reduce the stress of making decisions about end-of-life care under duress. By preparing in advance, you can avoid uncertainty and anxiety.

Here are some tips on communicating your wishes.

David a patient looking at the meadow at Cottage Hospice

1. Think about what you want before speaking with others

It’s important to take some time and think about what is most important to you.

Everyone will have different ideas on this, and it helps to write these down. Writing thoughts down can help you to have conversations with the people you love; talking openly gives opportunities to share your hopes, worries, fears or wishes.

2. No time like the present

Discuss your end-of-life wishes with those important to you before a crisis hits. Many people think there isn’t the right time to do so, but you could use significant events as a great opportunity to do so, like;

  • Significant life events, such as the death of a loved one, retirement, birthdays, and anniversaries.
  • While you are drawing up your will or doing other estate planning.
  • Before or after surgery or any other medical appointment.
  • When a major illness requires that you or a family member move out of your home and into, e.g. a nursing home.
  • During family gatherings, such as Christmas or New Year’s, when family members are around.

While it’s important to tell those close to you, remember to also let your GP or healthcare professional know.

Couple in the garden

3. Ask Permission

People deal with the subject of death and dying in many ways. It’s always good to ask for permission beforehand:

“Have you ever considered what you might like at your funeral?”

“What do you think about organ donation?”

“Is it okay to talk about how you would like to be cared for if you got really sick? Is that okay?”

“If you ever got sick, I would be afraid of not knowing what you wanted. Could we talk about this now? I’d feel better if we did.”

4. Think about the care you would like to receive

There are many things to consider when thinking about what you would like to happen with your care and treatment. You can make choices that can be changed in the future if you change your mind.

Here are some things to consider

  • How may you want your religious or spiritual beliefs reflected in your care?
  • Where would you like to be looked after, and what would be your preferred place of death if you had the choice;
  • home,
  • relatives’ home,
  • Hospice,
  • care home,
  • hospital

Have you spoken to your family about organ or tissue donation or donating your body to science? It is so important to share these decisions with your family. It is helpful to have these types of discussions recorded somewhere. You can complete a ReSPECT Form with your GP or our staff. The ReSPECT process creates a personalised recommendation for your clinical care in emergencies where you cannot make decisions or express your wishes. A ReSPECT plan is created through conversations between yourself and one or more health professionals involved with your care.

Men talking about death and dying

5. It's not all about conversations around death

This whole process should be more than end-of-life matters; it should also be about living. Talk to your family and those close to you about

  • Places you would like to visit. 
  • Experiences you’d like to have.
  • People you’d like to visit and speak with/write to. 

And while talking about these things and drawing up lists (some people call them their ‘Bucket List’), if possible and you can do so, why not work with those close to you to make your list a reality.

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Jane Pantony Head of CSS

Jane Pantony

Head of Counselling and Support

Get in touch and let us know how this has helped you or whether anything was missing