It’s not hard to see why people might steer clear of this difficult subject. You might worry that you’ll upset the people you talk to, be fearful of the subject yourself, not know how to bring it up, or simply not be aware of what you might need to discuss. Even if you realise it’s sensible to plan for the future, it’s easy to ignore the subject and hope you won’t need to.

People can be quite good at thinking about their funeral and their will, but more reticent when it comes to considering how and where they would like to be cared for at the end of their life. However, it pays to think about this and put your wishes in writing. A report from Compassion in Dying showed that those who had formally recorded their end-of-life treatment and care wishes were more likely to have a good death.

So how do you start this difficult conversation? Our Helpline adviser Anna shares a few tips.


Consider what you’re going to say in advance and make a few notes if necessary. You can find forms and templates to help you: try our downloadable funeral planner, or Compassion in Dying’s My Decisions tool, which can help you think through decisions about future treatments or care.

Don’t ambush them

You might want to give them time to prepare for the conversation as well. If it’s possible, let them know in advance that you’d like to talk about your dying wishes, so they have time to get used to the idea.

Think about how you’ll introduce the topic

Perhaps you’ve shared an experience recently that has made you think about planning for the end of your life. You could use this as a way into the conversation. For example, ‘What happened to mum made me realise I haven’t told anyone how I’d want to be cared for.’ or ‘Dad’s funeral really wasn’t what he would have wanted. I’m going to make sure I write down what I’d like.’

Pick your time and place

Don’t start the conversation when emotions are already running high or you’re pushed for your time. Give yourself the time and space to discuss the subject properly. If it becomes upsetting and you’re not getting anywhere, you can always come back to it another time, but try not to give up entirely.

Read our guide Planning for the end of life and our information on Difficult conversations for more on talking about death and your dying wishes.

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