How to have difficult conversations.

In a culture that often teaches us to resist mortality, the seemingly simple act of having a conversation about dying can have a profound impact. Family members and caregivers often feel uncomfortable talking about death and dying. But, these may be some of the most important conversations we have. If we avoid talking about death, how will we know what our loved ones want?

When should you start the conversation?
There are a number of events that can trigger a courageous conversation about hospice care:

  • When a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness
  • When a loved one has experienced repeated trips to the emergency room or hospitalizations
  • When a loved one’s condition has steadily or significantly declined
  • When a loved one is discouraged by, tired from or requests no further treatment
  • When a physician suggests hospice care during a routine visit

IWhen approaching a friend or loved one, try these conversation starters:

  • Can you tell me what you think of when you hear the word hospice?
  • How did you feel when you/your loved one initially began conversations about choosing hospice care?
  • How did you feel when you/your loved one began receiving hospice care?
  • How do you feel about your/your loved one’s care now?
  • What does a courageous conversation mean to you?

When approaching your doctor, you can ask:

  • Is this treatment plan for curative or for palliative care?
  • What is palliative treatment?
  • How will this affect my ability to care for myself?
  • When do you think I will be no longer to care for myself?
  • How long can this be treated before I need hospice?

It’s difficult, but having courageous conversations can mean the difference between the type of death we want and one that doesn’t allow us a say in our end-of-life journey.

For more information about Frederick Health Hospice, call 240-566-3030.


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