An essential but sometimes overlooked part of life planning is documenting personal healthcare choices by completing Advance Directives. Holiday gatherings, when the family is together, provide an ideal opportunity to start the conversation.

“Telling loved ones about the care we want – or don’t want – should we ever become unable to speak for ourselves isn’t easy,” said Bill Finn, president and CEO of Hospice of the Western Reserve. “However, the easiest time to start is when a person is still healthy. Accidents and unforeseen medical events can happen at any age.”

He provided the following tips:

1. Pick the right time. Admittedly, it’s an awkward subject. Reassure your family by acknowledging that fact up front. You might say: “This isn’t easy for me to talk about, but it’s important to my peace of mind.”

2. Have resources in place before you start. Hospice of the Western Reserve offers a free booklet called “Courage in Conversation” which can be downloaded at

3. Enlist a family member’s support. Together, explain to the rest of the family that you don’t want to burden them with difficult decisions later.

4. Don’t rush things. Realistically, you’ll need to have several discussions. Your goal right now is simply to get a conversation started.

The planning process takes time and emotional readiness. Sharing choices through conversation is an important first step. In the long-run, having the conversations, making decisions and documenting your choices will be the greatest gift you can give to your family.

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