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How to start a conversation about the end of life

Dec 19, 2019 1:40:00 PM

The ending of life is an inevitability for all living beings, but it’s never easy to part ways. It can be even harder to have a conversation about the ending of a loved one’s life. According to The Conversation Project, 90 percent of people say that talking to their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27 percent actually do. Too often, we fail to plan for this certainty and leave tough decisions to be made after a loved one has already passed away, rather than learning their true choices and wishes about how to handle their death. You don’t have to wait until the end is imminent; talking about this natural part of life and how to handle it can happen well before it’s time and put everyone’s questions and fears to rest. All you have to do is get started.

Voice Your Choice

No one likes to think about dying, but it’s a universal stage of life. The more we as a society openly discuss death, the better educated and empowered we will be to navigate our own final days and those of our loved ones. Voice Your Choice is an advanced care planning program that provides an avenue to start a conversation about the end of life and discuss final wishes with loved ones. When these conversations happen earlier, it’s easier to understand options and clearly communicate choices.

Tips for talking with your loved ones about death


The holidays can be a good time to start a conversation about the end of life, even if it’s not yet near. Often during the holiday season, families get together and become reflective. Having a difficult conversation earlier or when times are good can pave the way for quicker and less painful decisions when the end of life is near. It’s not just medical decisions that need to be made, because we each have personal preferences. Making these choices requires time and thought. Here are some questions you can ask your loved one to gain some understanding about their end-of-life wishes:

  • What worries you about death? (i.e., managing pain, leaving behind loved ones, etc.)
  • What’s most important to you during the end of life? (i.e., repairing relationships, fulfilling a bucket list, etc.)
  • What would you like to have “in place” before your final days? (i.e., paperwork, a hospice provider chosen, etc.)
  • What do you currently know about your health? (i.e., medications taken, symptoms and pain management, etc.)
  • How would you like to be remembered? (i.e., death announcement, funeral and burial arrangements, etc.)

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By understanding your loved one’s wishes and how they evolve (because they can change over time) death can be a time of greater peace and less stress. The process of considering options, making decisions and then communicating those with family members and physicians is key to experiencing a more peaceful passing. Get a free conversation starter booklet to help you plan what to say this season.

Get your questions answered at Hospice of Southwest Ohio


Hospice of Southwest Ohio is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. Having tough conversations about the end of life doesn’t have to be scary. It’s never too early to begin researching your options as you age. Hospice care provides comfort, rather than a cure, at the end of your lifetime and focuses on enhancing the quality of life during final months and days. At Hospice of Southwest Ohio, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have about end-of-life care. We offer hospice, palliative and in-home primary care in and around the greater Cincinnati area in Clermont County, Butler County, Warren County and Hamilton County.

Call Hospice of Southwest Ohio with questions at any time at (513) 770-0820.

Dr. Richard Sternberg
Written by Dr. Richard Sternberg

Dr. Sternberg is Hospice of Southwest Ohio and CareBridge Primary and Palliative Care’s current Medical Director. He specializes in pulmonary critical care and practices as our hospice & palliative physician. He has been practicing in pulmonary and critical care in Hamilton Ohio since 1993. Dr. Sternberg treats conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, allergies and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Within the last several years, Dr. Sternberg has added treating patients who are at the end of life by becoming certified as a hospice physician. His compassion for patients and families and impeccable clinical skills makes him well-suited to this role that requires hard conversations and medical expertise.

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