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Understanding Your Health Choices: Conversations Before the Crisis

Seizing the moment-Using trigger points for conversations

In the conversation between Steven and his father, Steven took action after going through the death of a friend. He used the experience as a conversation starter, so that the issue did not come up "out of the blue." Personal experience and current events, as well as art and culture, offer trigger points for conversations. Here are some other possibilities:

Television Programs

"I know you saw that discussion last week on Oprah about the family who wanted to discontinue the feeding tube for the mother, but they couldn't because no one had signed the advance directive that was needed in that state. I thought that was terrible. What would you want if you were in a situation like that?"

Deaths of Celebrities

"I remember how much Paul McCartney loved his wife, Linda, and how he took care of her at home when she was dying of cancer. He had her family around her, and her pets, I think, and he sang to her. That's so beautiful. When I die, I want to be cared for at home. I know it was easier for Paul because he has plenty of money, but I think anyone can get help from that hospice group. So remember, I want you singing to me if I die. And I sure don't want to die in a hospital. Do you?"

Newspaper Articles

"I have been thinking about those young people killed and injured in that bus accident. It's so heartbreaking when children die, and we just never expect it. It made me realize that you don't know what I want if I'm in a car accident. So I'm going to write it down. And I'd like to talk with you about what you want."

Financial Planning

"I met with our lawyer last week to be sure that my will is up-to-date. I do this every three years, just in case something has changed, with me or with the tax laws. The lawyer reminded me that there will be medical decisions to make when I die, as well as financial decisions, and he asked me if I had given my doctor any instructions. I've been putting this off, but I know I need to decide. Can we talk about this? Have you thought about what you want? Will you be willing to take responsibility for decisions if I can't act for myself?"

Families differ. Some people value information and discussion, and like to examine expert advice. In a family like this, sharing an article or newspaper editorial might work. Some families might deal better with a movie or a story that is open-ended. This could be a better place to start. You could say something like, "I wonder if you would watch this video, and tell me what you feel about it. It made me think about some hard things." A movie, a book, a painting-works of art allow for personal interpretation. The things that your family likes most to talk about will be the best conversation openers.

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

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