Talking About Death and Dying

It is not easy to talk about death and dying. The conversation is an uncomfortable topic and one which most of us want to avoid for several reasons. It is a subject that can be socially inappropriate, embarrassing, awkward, and frightening. Some may think if they don’t talk about death then it won’t happen. Even physicians, who are trained to cure disease and prolong life, receive little training on how to talk about death.

However, as elderly parents age and move closer to the inevitable end of their natural lives it is important to begin talking with them about how they view their own death and dying. Be open and honest about an aging loved one’s feelings and desires. This will not only answer important questions but also help to relieve everyone’s anxieties.

Start the Conversation

Elderly parents often want to express how they view the end of their lives but it can be adult children who may avoid the topic. Since the death of an aging parent affects everyone in the family, it is important to find out exactly what your parent wants to happen. Open up the topic by asking mom, dad, or an elderly loved one some questions:

  • Is there a will and/or trust in place including a Power of Attorney? Where are these legal documents located?
  • Do you have an Advance Care Directive? Do you want to prolong or not prolong end-of-life care?
  • Do you want to be at home when you die? Would you prefer to be in a hospital or long-term care facility? What about hospice care?
  • Have you planned your funeral? Do you want to be cremated? Should there be a religious service? How will the costs be covered?
  • Are your finances sorted out? Have your written down online passwords to bank and brokerage accounts? What about e-mail and social media passwords?


Even if a parent seems young for his or her age, it is vital to get answers to these questions. Start the conversation now before a medical emergency happens and a parent is no longer able to communicate this essential information.

End the Conversation

Once you have all questions answered don’t dwell on the topic. It’s time to get on with life and enjoy living. Encourage your parents to seek out ways to have fun, enjoy time with friends and family, or complete anything left on a bucket list.


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