Talking about dying: How to begin honest conversations

Modern health care, the efforts of health care professionals and our healthier lifestyles have resulted in humans living longer than ever before. It has also resulted in a larger number of people who are living with increasingly complex illnesses for longer periods of time. Even though we may live longer, this does not mean that we should put off talking about, or thinking about death. Planning about what medical procedures you do want or do not want to receive, for instance, will save your family, friends, whānau and medical team from making tricky decisions at the end of your life if you are unable to express your wishes.

Most people are triggered about thinking about their end of life by a life event such as:

  • a death of a loved one
  • a sudden medical issue
  • retirement
  • overseas travel
  • the birth of a baby.

These events often cause us to think about the uncertainty of life and the need to plan for the future and safeguard those we love.

One way to begin honest conversations about end of life is by creating a plan. Creating a plan can help you to become ‘conversation ready’. You can spend the time working out what you want to happen, and then include your friends, family and whānau if you wish, into your decision. There are a few things you should consider planning for, such as want you want in terms of medical care in the event of illness, or what you want you want to happen when you are gone, financial and legal options, service preferences and your final resting place.

You can create your plan in whatever way you feel most comfortable. You could have conversations, write it down, or use the online tool at  the Te Hokinga ā Wairua End of Life Service, using ‘My plan’.

This plan, either created online or not, is not a legally binding document like a will, it is simply a record of your preferences to guide your  family, whānau and friends.

Another things you could think about doing is talking things through with your GP. Sometimes it is easier to talk about things over with a third party before you decide to talk to friends, family and whānau. They will be able to answer questions you may have about the possible “what ifs?” and “what happens when…?”. They also might be able to advise, based on their knowledge of your medical history.

The best thing you can do is start approaching this subject in an open and honest way. Once you make decisions, make sure your loved ones are aware of your wishes. There are a number of other documents you can use to write down your wishes, including advance care plan and “living wills”. Think about your options and take control. You will feel empowered for doing so.

Visit Te Hokinga ā Wairua End of Life Service for more information about making a plan.

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.