Open Conversations: Give the “Gift of Peace” to Your Family

Having an open conversation with your family about the kind of end of life care and medical intervention that you want is the best holiday gift you can give.

A Happy and Healthy Family Until…

Cathy and Mark are loving and close siblings who live in different cities with their own families. Their 80-year-old parents, Barb and Alan, live in a small house in Atlanta and have had a cozy mountain house in North Carolina for decades. The extended family has enjoyed many holidays together at their mountain house over the years.

The Ballad of Barb and Allen

Earlier this fall, Alan fell and broke his hip and sustained a concussion when he hit his head. Due to COVID precautions, Barb wasn’t able to visit Alan in the hospital when he had his surgery or when he was moved to a skilled nursing facility for rehab. Alan has not been recovering well physically and now has some cognitive impairment.  He will no longer be the strong and healthy man he was before the fall. Barb will have to make some hard decisions regarding care for Alan and is overwhelmed by the choices and costs especially since she never had to worry about their personal finances. Luckily, Cathy lives in Florida and is able to drive to Atlanta to offer support to her mom during this incredibly stressful time. Unfortunately, Mark lives in New York and has been unable to visit his family since March due to the pandemic. Mark has felt terrible that he hasn’t been with his family to add comfort and help take care of the many details and decisions in person.

The Fallout

This is a very typical scenario that we have dealt with this year at Hurley Elder Care Law. This close-knit family didn’t take the time during their normal happy and hectic lives to deal with the potential of an unexpected medical crisis. Cathy and Mark never took the time to have conversations with their parents regarding their medical wishes or their financial situation and plans. Also, Alan never discussed his healthcare beliefs with his family so they are now at a loss trying to make decisions they feel he would want for himself. If Alan dies, how does he want his estate to be distributed? He likely would want everything to pass to Barb, but intestate laws  dictate that Barb, Cathy and Mark would all receive a third of his estate since he doesn’t have a Will.

Family Dynamics Can Cause Strife During Times of Crisis

Can you imagine what would happen in this situation if the family dynamics were different? What would happen if it was a blended family with strained relations or siblings who are always at each other’s throats? As evidenced in this article from AARP, having family conversations and putting wishes in writing before a crisis will help prevent disagreements and rifts between family members.

The Conversation Project

Jenny Buckley, RN, former hospice nurse and owner of Care Matters in Atlanta, strongly believes in the importance of having conversations about personal values and she teaches others about The Conversation Project which is a public engagement campaign with a goal to have every person’s wishes for end-of-life care expressed and respected.

You can find free and helpful workbooks and conversation starter kits at the website. Jenny says, “there is really no greater gift to give your loved ones than to organize your wishes regarding end-of-life care.”

As the holidays are now upon us, it is a perfect time to have these gentle but important conversations with your family. Put this topic on your holiday agenda so your family can start the New Year feeling peaceful and prepared.


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