Approaching Your Family about Advance Care Planning

Engaging your family is a critical step in the advance care planning process. If you are unable to make decisions for yourself, these individuals will speak on your behalf. It is important to have a conversation about your healthcare wishes before a medical crisis occurs.

Maybe you’ve already had the conversation with your spouse or best friend. Have you talked with all the people in your life who should know your wishes—children, close friends, your healthcare provider? Have you considered how they will react to discussing your wishes with them? Some people are comfortable having the discussion. Some even find comfort in knowing, for certain, what you want. But for others, discussing the topic can be scary, and hard to face.

Remember, these are your wishes. You should be open, honest and clear when talking with your loved ones.

ICE BREAKERS: How do I get started?

Starting the conversation with your family can be difficult. Below are some conversations starters to consider when approaching the subject with your loved ones.

  • Medical condition: Use your medical diagnosis to help start the conversation.
    • “I want you know my wishes so that you can communicate them for me if my illness gets worse and I can’t speak for myself.”
  • Family experience: Use an example of a family member’s experience with serious illness and/or death to help loved ones know about your wishes.
    • “ Remember when _______________ was on life support after having a heart attack…”
  • News example: Use an example you may have heard in the news to start the conversation.
    • “I read this article on advance care planning, and it got me thinking about my wishes.”
  • Doctor recommendation: Use information from your doctor to start the conversation.
    • “My doctor provided me this booklet about care planning and suggested I talk about my wishes with you.”

You may be surprised at how your family reacts to the discussion. Remember, you are doing what is best to protect you and them. If you feel reluctant about having this discussion, you may also include your healthcare provider or another neutral party to assist in starting this conversation.

Established Memorial Physician Services patients have the opportunity to use our Advance Care Planning program to help with these conversation. To learn more, or to set up your appointment, please call Samantha Bundy, LCSW, at 217-757-7253.