How to Have “The” Conversation

At some point in our lives, most of us will become unable to speak for ourselves. That’s when doctors will turn to our loved ones. Yet our loved ones won’t know what medical decisions we would want made unless we have told them.

While it’s important to complete advance directives, it is just as essential to have an open, honest discussion with loved ones. Be clear about what medical treatments you want—or don’t want—if you cannot make these decisions yourself. This way, you ease the burden on your family if they ever have to face this painful situation.

Understandably, talking about end-of-life issues isn’t easy. Here are some suggested ways to start this important conversation:

Suggested ways to start the conversation

“I read an article about advance directives, and it convinced me that this is an important thing to do for myself and the whole family. Can I talk to you about this?”


“I know that this isn’t easy to talk about, but if I get sick or have an accident—and can’t make medical decisions for myself—I’d like to share what would be important to me, so you could be my decision maker.”


“I’ve thought a lot about what happened to _________ (family, friend) when her mother went into the hospital. I want to make sure that you know what I would want if I was ever in that situation. I wouldn’t want you to feel burdened by any choices you might have to make on my behalf, without knowing what I’d want.”


After a movie or news story: “That’s not what I would want if I was that patient. I want to make sure that you know my wishes if that ever happened to me.”

What if you want to ask your parent or other loved one to talk about their wishes?

Many of the conversation starters above can be adjusted and used to approach this subject with a parent or other loved one.

You can state the simple truth: You love them. You worry about their well-being. It makes you scared and uncomfortable to even think about them being in a medical crisis…but it scares you even more to think that you might have to make decisions for them without knowing what they would want.

It can be helpful to tell them you have completed, or plan to complete, your own advance directive. Share your own thoughts about what you would want.

Don’t know what your options are? Click here to explore more resources. For more help completing advance directives or starting a conversation with family, call 336.621.5565 or contact us online here.

Photo by Patrick Nijhus via FreeImages.com