Question: My father was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. I want to talk with him about what he would like for his end-of-life plans but I don't have any idea how to start the conversation. He never has liked to talk about personal things. Do you have any ideas about how I can approach this?
Dr. Amy: Starting these types of conversations is often difficult. Sometimes people do better when they can discuss difficult topics in small doses. Therefore, it might help to remind yourself that you likely will have several conversations about his wishes—not one big conversation.
Before you begin, make sure you are clear about what you want to ask. You might want to write down your questions so you don't forget them when you speak with your father.
Watch your father's reactions closely, when you talk with him. Listen carefully. By doing this, you'll be able to see when he has talked about the topic enough for that day.
Finally, tell your father how much peace of mind it will give you to know his wishes. Often people talk more freely about these difficult topics when they know how much it means to their family.
Talking about end of life wishes can be very stressful for people who don't talk much about personal matters. Being clear about your motivation and taking the ‘small doses' approach will make the task much easier for you both.
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