We all know death is a natural part of life and something we will all experience. But have you thought about how you want to be treated during your final days? How you would like to die?

Though it’s not an easy topic, and most of us avoid thinking about it, consider giving your death some thought this holiday season. What better way to start the New Year than with a resolution to complete your advance healthcare directive and talk to your family about what you want at the end of life?

In fact, there is a growing movement in Hawai‘I and the nation toward considering how we want to die and sharing those wishes with doctors, caregivers and loved ones. Increasingly, people feel everyone deserves to make their own personal decisions for dying with comfort, dignity and control.

Compassion & Choices Hawai‘i is part of this movement. They help people receive state-of-the-art care and the full range of options at the end of life, including disease-specific treatment, palliative care, hospice, avoidance of unwanted medical treatment and access to aid in dying, which is the option to advance the time of death if suffering becomes unbearable.

How do you get the conversation started?

After many attempts to engage family members, one Compassion & Choices client set her holiday table with advance directive forms at every place setting and announced, “Nobody gets dinner until these are filled out.” Now that’s some tough turkey!

And while the paperwork is important, the essential thing is to get the conversation going. Try starting with, “If one of us ever had to make decisions about your treatment because you couldn’t, it would be much easier if we knew what you really want.” Then ask the following:

  • Would you want life support if you have a terminal illness? What if you’re in a permanent coma? What if you have a chronic illness such as Alzheimer’s disease?
  • Do you always want to know the truth about your condition? About treatment options and their odds of success? And what does “success” mean to you and quality of life?
  • What will be important to you when you are dying? No pain? Hold on as long as possible? Family members present? What are your priorities?
  • Would you want to be in a nursing home if your condition warranted?

Compassion & Choices has a free Good-to-Go Toolkit to guide your conversation and document the results at www.CompassionAndChoices.org/advance-directive.

Compassion & Choices’ End-of-Life Consultation is a free service. Professional consultants listen to each unique situation and provide information, emotional support and patient advocacy as people navigate complex choices about terminal illness or the dying process.

For more information, free consultation, access to the Good-to-Go Toolkit and much more, call 1-800-247-7421 or visit www.CompassionAndChoices.org/hawaii.