What if you’re ready for hospice, but your family isn’t?

Posted by Hospice by the Bay on Fri April 25, 2014 in Talking About Hospice

couple-stairs-beachSure, easy enough for us to say.

If you’re terminally ill, you may be ready to forego curative treatment and choose hospice’s palliative or comfort care — treatment that will neither extend your life nor shorten it, but will improve your day-to-day quality of life. But what if those you love will have none of it? They are simply not ready to face this discussion? They may say you’re depressed or “giving up.” You may feel you are disappointing them.

This often happens in families — the patient is ready to start closure, but the family is not. That can make starting the conversation difficult. It may explain why, in a California Health Foundation survey, 60 percent said making sure their family won’t be burdened by tough end-of-life decisions is “extremely important.” Yet, more than half had not communicated their wishes to anyone.

So how do you start the hospice conversation when your family resists? Carefully.

Recognize that disagreement on these issues is okay. Acknowledge others’ feelings, “I know this may be hard to talk about, but it’s important to me.” You can get through it if you are clear about your wishes, are honest about your reasons and honor your feelings.

For those grappling with the challenges of a terminal disease, The Conversation Project has a starter kit to help you bring up the topic with those important to you. And here are some tips from our experienced staff at Hospice by the Bay:

  • Write down your thoughts. This may help you think about it privately, before you’re ready to talk. You can do this in the form of a letter for your family.
  • Tell your loved ones how you are feeling about your illness and your treatment.
  • Bring up someone you know who has died, and what your feelings are about the way they died. Was it a “good death”? How would you like yours to be the same or different?
  • Tell your family what matters most to you for the rest of your life, however long it may be.
  • Understand that you don’t have to talk about everything right away. You can just have short conversations. The more you talk, the more comfortable people can be with the subject.

To help you think through the issues you want to talk about, take a look at the resources on our Start the Conversation page.

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