Having difficult conversations
With Demi Brooks
This week in my blog, I want to explore having difficult conversations; why we should have them and how to have them.
In the current climate, it is important to have conversations about what you or your loved ones would want should you become too unwell to communicate your own wishes. This is especially important if you or your loved one has received a palliative or end of life diagnosis.
Ordinarily, having these conversations can be difficult, and often we can feel uncomfortable having them. We may feel scared or worried about unleashing strong emotions and ultimately upsetting ourselves and our loved ones.
However, if these conversations are not had and something does happen to yourself or your loved one, it would be far more distressing if you realised you didn’t know what a loved one’s wishes were and what they wanted.
When someone close to me received his palliative diagnosis, one of the hardest things I found I was having that initial conversation about his wishes. However, I found I was more upset than him.
We ended up having a lovely conversation where I learnt things about him and his life I didn’t know as well as what his wishes were. He had already thought about what he wanted to happen and was adamant about it. Had I not spoken to him, my family and I would not have known what he wanted.
Fortunately, because we had that conversation, we were able follow his wishes. when he became to poorly to communicate them. I’m so glad I had a conversation with him and was able to give him what he wanted.
Recently, someone shared with me that they had finally had spoken to their loved one about what they wanted to happen in case they were unwell.
They said: “I had put off having a conversation for so long, it was a weight off my shoulders. It helped me address a number of issues, which were on my mind and set them aside.”
Currently having these conversations with loved ones is even more challenging due to lockdown and self-isolation; you can’t just pop round and see mum and dad and talk about it over a good old cup of tea.
Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke suggests the following to help facilitate these conversations:
- Use video if you can Such as FaceTime of WhatsApp video
- Thinking about the timing of the conversation
- Start gently, “mum, dad are you aware of what’s happening...?”
- Don’t assume it will be upsetting
- It can be about more than just the practicalities of finding out your loved ones wishes; it can also be a chance for you both to say those things that are really important to one another.
These conversations should be taking place, regardless of COVID-19, but the current situation does highlight more so the need to have these conversations right now.
Ask yourself: If you or your loved one were to become unwell, do you know what you would want to happen and do you know what they would want to happen?
We have a chance to get this right for ourselves and our loved ones. It’s a lovely last thing that we can do for them, knowing their wishes and carrying them out, so let’s get this right and get talking.
Next week, I will discuss how we can record yours and your loved ones wishes.
Demi Brooks is Palliative Care Education Co-Ordinator for Big C.