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Start Talking About Life's End Well in Advance
Date:4/2/2010

n the family, Cooney noted.

"I have a casual kind of family, so this is the kind of topic we just bring up," she said. "Other families that operate with a little more structure may need to set a time to sit down."

Cooney found that bringing the topic up during a long car ride with a family member worked for her. "It's forced time together, just the two of you," she said.

Other times when you're alone together can work as well. Beverly Bus spoke with her husband, Mike, while they were at the doctor's office before his surgery.

"We saw someone come in who was really sick, and he just opened up his heart about what he wanted," she said.

"I just wanted to be peaceful," said Mike Bus, 66. "I wanted to pass away with a little bit of dignity, with less fear of the actual pain of dying. If it got to the point where I was hooked up to any machines, I wouldn't want that."

Families who need more structure might consider setting aside a period of time and gathering in a comfortable spot. "It's easiest to bring it up as a group topic," Cooney said.

And rather than put any one family member on the spot, she said it can be helpful to kick off the conversation by saying what you yourself would want. "I'll tell you what I think if you tell me what you think," Cooney said.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, some important topics to be discussed include:

  • Who you want to make medical decisions and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated. This can be two different people if you prefer: one looking out for your health, and the other managing your finances.
  • Which medical treatments you would want and which you would not want. Be specific.
  • Whether you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing or if your heart stops.
  • Whether you want to go to a hospice, a hospital or home if you are terminally ill.
  • What your wishes are fo
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