Q & A

  • I feel ready to talk with my daughter about what matters most to me and what kind of care I'd want. But she says, "Mom, don't talk like that" or "There will be plenty of time to figure that out, not now." Do you have any suggestions?

    For most of us, to talk about the death of someone we love, let alone a parent, can be uncomfortable. That’s why too often it never happens. That’s why “We Need To Talk.” Laying the groundwork for “the Conversation” is very personal but doesn’t have to be complicated. When you feel ready, or past ready, find a time when your prespective Agent is calm and available. Acknowledge that it’s uncomfortable for you too, yet the need to talk is not going to magically disappear. Take small steps. Ask your prespective Agent if they’d be willing to talk about their concerns or fears. Listen well… Ideally this will become a series of conversations that take place over time. Help them understand why this is important to you. Express your appreciation for their willingness to at least talk… Avoid asking for a commitment right away… You’re just talking about a difficult topic that matters deeply to you both. You’ve broken the ice… Well done. Perhaps agree on when to talk next.

    If your attempts are met with further resistance, consider asking your prespective Agent to join you during a doctor’s visit. Let your doctor know ahead of time that you need some help along these lines. Still meeting resistance? You may need to look elsewhere for a willing Agent. The bottom line: Keep talking to the people who care about you, including your doctor(s), and document what matters most to you.

  • My two adult children don't get along very well. I'm uncertain about which one to trust as my Agent. How do I decide? And what can I do to keep the other one from butting in?

    ‘Sounds like a “normal” family. If possible, I encourage you to sit down with both of them, or have a conference call, in an effort to promote reconciliation and to build consensus. Your request to have them team up to help you, at end-of-life, may be compelling enough for them to work through what ever the obstacle might be. If your intention to be a peacemaker is successful, then well done!

    If that’s not possible, let’s go to “Door #2”: I suspect you have a sense which of your children would be the best Agent and Advocate. Daughters seem to do better with this particular responsibility, but you’ll need to choose. Then comes “the Conversation” and a learning curve for you both. Many people will appoint a daughter, with the request that she’ll talk with her other sibling(s) but ultimately be the spokesperson. Doctors tend to prefer one spokesperson, but unfortunately are quite used to family discord. In extreme circumstances, a person can be singled out through your advance directive, and excluded from having any official input.

    I hope that helps.