How to encourage parents to complete an advance directive

Posted by Rachael Telleen, Community Outreach Programs Director

How to encourage parents to complete an advance directive

It’s a touchy situation. You love your aging parents and want to do what’s best for them. You know they should be planning for their end-of-life care and putting their wishes into writing. If they would complete an advance directive, you’d be sure they will receive the care they want, under any circumstances, even when they may not be able to speak for themselves.

It’s a difficult topic to bring up, but the best time to talk about it is now, not in a time of crisis or medical emergency. According to a national survey by The Conversation Project, 90 percent of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27 percent have actually done so.

So how do you start the conversation? One of the best ways to begin is by completing an advance directive for yourself. There are many easy, streamlined versions such as the Five Wishes form. To obtain a complimentary electronic copy of Five Wishes from JourneyCare, click here.

No one intends to use auto and life insurance— we have them for the “just in case.” This is the same reason anyone over 18 years old should have an advanced directiveA medical crisis or trauma could happen to anyone, leaving you unable to make your own decisions.

Show and Share Your Wishes

Completing your own Five Wishes form and then showing it to your parents can make bringing up the topic easier and may help avoid any possible defensive reactions from your loved ones. Share your wishes before you ask them to share theirs.

Here are some things you can discuss while showing them your advance directive.

  • Explain that an advance directive documents how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. The Five Wishes form speaks to your holistic needs: medical, personal, emotional and spiritual.
  • Share what brings meaning and joy to your life.
  • Talk about any personal experiences you’ve had with the death of a loved one or family member and how it affected you.
  • Discuss any medical situations that scare you.
  • Explain that people at any age should have an advance directive.
  • Ask your parents what brings joy to them today.
  • Offer to help each of your parents complete their own Five Wishes forms.

Having a talk about advance care planning with your parents can be a challenge, but it’s definitely a conversation you need to have. Here are some additional resources:  

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