But do you know what the true burden is for our friends and family? To make decisions big and small about our life and our dying without ever getting to know what we actually want.
Before you begin discussing death and dying, there are a few important things to take into consideration.
It’s never too soon to talk about dying. Even though you may have plenty of time before you, don’t postpone the discussion.
Time and experience change things, and your preferences and opinions will change too. You should expect this to happen both to you and to others.
A “good” death means different things to different people, and there are no wrong personal choices. We are all individuals and we all want to choose our own path. Our notions and our needs are always original. Even our friends and our family will have to resort to guessing if we do not tell them.
Don’t push too hard. Maybe just touch on the matter today and wait for a more thorough discussion when the time is ripe. Everyone needs time to contemplate these matters. You also shouldn’t force yourself to speak about anything that you feel uncomfortable with; just let it flow. Most likely, your first debate about dying will be just one of many, so you don’t have to discuss everything from A to Z on the first try. Talking about dying and death is not boring or a waste of time. If you choose the right partner for the discussion, you will return to the topic sooner or later.
Don’t judge anyone just because they might have different opinions. Different people have different views, that’s just the way it is.
Think about your “what would happen if...” scenarios. For example, we all inevitably lose some of our physical and mental capacities as our lives come near their end, and you may want to consider the circumstances that you would rather prefer not to deal with. This will help you put in order your preferences about how you would like to spend your last moments. Some people may have very particular and specific requirements such as “I don’t want to be fed by percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy when I lose the ability to take in food orally”, others may draw the line at “I don’t want to be kept alive by machines once I lose the ability to enjoy a glass of beer”. In both instances, your friends and family will be able to use the knowledge as a hint on how to decide when the situation becomes serious.
You should also think about the people you’d want to spend your final moments with; whether you would like to remain actively involved in your health-care decisions or whether you would prefer to leave the decision-making to professionals; think about appointing someone to make those decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so on your own; and about your last farewell arrangements. It is important to remain sincere and realistic in thinking about your options and choices. Your end-of-life care and your last wishes will be handled by your friends and relatives. Domestic care requires adequate space, sufficient time and financial resources; your last wish to have your ashes scattered over all continents will be difficult to fulfil on the dole.
Pick the right place, time and person to discuss this topic. You may find it easy and effortless, but you may also discover that choosing the right words can be difficult. One way to jumpstart the discussion is to refer to the experience or a story of some other friend or relative: “I’ve been thinking about what happened to Victor and I realized that...” You may use the list of your last wishes from our application. “I filled in this list of last wishes on the internet. I’d like to show it to you and talk about it.” You may also write your wishes and your thoughts down on a piece of paper: “I’ve sketched some thoughts I have, and I would like you to read them.”