One thing all humans have in common is that they will enter the world and leave the world in the same way — birth and death. In our society, speaking about death has almost become taboo; yet it is something that we will all face one day. Advance care planning conversations are some of the most difficult conversations to have initially, but will benefit later in the decision making process when end-of-life decisions have to be made.
Conversations about advance care planning and end-of-life desires are best to have when someone is healthy. However, that's usually when people feel less urgency and put it off. When people are sick, advance care planning is much harder to talk about as the reality of the end of life becomes more apparent. Many people perceive that if they talk about end of life, it will happen sooner. The reality is that whether you are healthy or sick; young or old, it is never too early to talk about advance care planning and end-of-life issues. None of us know how today will end, as our lives can change quickly.
Not only is it important for others to know your wishes, but it is also important for you to know the wishes of your family and friends. Advance care planning conversations benefit everyone. Documenting your wishes is just as important as having conversations. See Create Your Advance Directive for more information.
Starting a conversation with anyone about advance health care planning can be challenging.
It is OK to ask about what the end of life may look like and what treatment options are available.
It can be overwhelming, especially as you learn about the diagnosis, treatment process and side effects. Your health care provider will consider what treatments to offer based on your current state of health, your current level of activity, the availability of treatment and what benefit you would receive from treatment.
Regardless of what your provider offers for treatment, you always have the choice to agree or refuse the treatment. It can be difficult to speak with your provider about refusing treatment.
Even without having conversations about advance health care planning, people get sick or find themselves in a crisis. When health care providers talk to families, it can be hard for families because they are unsure what decisions to make or how their loved one would make decisions.