Hospice Care: How to Have That Difficult Conversation with Your Loved One

If your loved one's health has been steadily declining as a result of an illness, then you must start preparing yourself to have that difficult conversation about hospice care and potentially death. It is important that you understand that hospice care does not mean that death is right around the corner; instead, it simply means that your loved one needs more help with care than before. In any case, bringing this conversation up can be difficult—and just thinking about it can be overwhelming. So, here is what you need to know about this difficult conversation.

Who Should You Even Talk to About Hospice Care?

When it comes to end-of-life medical care, there are several people that you will need to talk to. Not only will you need to talk to your ill loved one, but you will also need to speak to his or her doctor, other family members, and hospice staff.

When Should the Conversation Begin?

The conversation about hospice care can be triggered by several different events, including the following:

  • When your loved one has visited the emergency room or been hospitalized numerous times.
  • When your loved one's current medical condition has significantly declined or is steadily declining.
  • When your loved one has been officially diagnosed with a terminal illness.
  • When your loved one is tired from, discouraged by, or simply does not want further treatment.
  • When your loved one's primary care physician suggests hospice care.

How Can You Start a Conversation about End-of-Life Care?

Talking to your loved one about hospice care can be difficult. After all, it is a very serious topic. However, the situation can be eased by finding the best time and place to have the conversation and looking for an opening to bring the topic of discussion up. You want to choose a private, relaxing time that is free from any and all distractions. Once you have an opening, take it.

You will want to try to start the conversation by bringing up your loved one's last hospital stay and how it may have been harder on him or her. An alternative is to bring up how your loved one is struggling with something like walking, eating, or breathing, or how he or she is in a lot of pain and how hospice can help with that. If the doctor mentioned hospice care at your loved one's last appointment, you can bring that up and mention that the doctor gave you a lot of information to think about and ask if your loved one has thought about it since then, and if so, how does he or she want to proceed.

Keep in mind that your loved one may remain silent, and that's okay. He or she may be processing what you have just said. Give him or her time to reflect on the conversation. Just make sure that you remain empathetic, encouraging, and reassuring. This is as hard for your loved one as it is for you. Let your loved one know that you are here to support him or her, no matter how hard it gets.