How to Initiate Talk About End of Life Wishes
It’s not common dinner table conversation. It isn’t something spouses routinely discuss. Even those of us who are pragmatic in every other area of our lives shy away from talking about our own death; it’s not a topic most people wish to contemplate. Yet as reverse mortgage professionals, you need to inquire about your clients’ desires, if only obliquely, for example: “Have you discussed who will inherit your house?”
However, everyone does need to have what aging expert Suzanne Braun Levine calls “The Conversation”: a clear-eyed discussion about one’s end-of-life choices and concerns. And it’s not just a subject for seniors: since no ones knows (barring a terminal illness) when our last moment will occur, it’s wise for every adult to have The Conversation, first with themselves, then with family members. But how can you broach such an emotionally loaded subject?
Journalist Ellen Goodman has created The Conversation Project to help people begin to talk about one of life’s most challenging topics: its conclusion. This “starter kit” doesn’t address legal or monetary issues, but helps people begin to open up about one of the most important topics they’ll ever discuss.
Why is The Conversation vitally important? Because there’s a huge gap between what people say they want and what actually transpires. According to a 2012 survey by the California HealthCare Foundation,
80 percent of people say that if they were seriously ill, they would want to talk to their doctor about end-of-life care — but only 7 percent report having had an end-of-life conversation with their doctor. Similarly, a 2005 study by The Centers for Disease Control found that while 70 percent of people say they prefer to die at home, in actuality
70 percent die in a hospital, nursing home, or long-term care facility.
Clearly, opening up the lines of communication is critical. The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit includes sample questions, letters, and quizzes to help seniors determine how they feel about a number of core issues.
So while it’s not a topic you can or should discuss with your clients as a reverse mortgage professional, you can suggest The Conversation Project Starter Kit as a resource to assist them in gaining clarity around later life issues. And think about downloading the free Kit for yourself as well. Preparation leads to peace of mind.