End-of-life decisions: Has your family had “the talk”?

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-Generations_Talking.jpgHas your family had “the talk”? No, not about sex. The really difficult “talk”—making explicit plans about end-of-life decisions. That “talk” forces you to look death in the face. That’s one reason why so many people put it off, delay, and procrastinate. It’s not rational. It’s a defense mechanism, a symbolic denial of mortality.

So, have you made plans? Have you written them down? My wife and I did—eventually, after lots of delay and procrastination. We talked about doing it for years before we actually did it. The turning point was the birth of our son. My father died intestate and I know what a mess that creates. We didn’t want to recreate all that. We went the whole nine yards: living will, durable power of attorney, and healthcare proxy. It took almost a year to do, almost all because we put if off, delayed, and procrastinated.

Looking at your own mortality is hard to do. Many Americans have written down their wishes for end-of-life treatment, according to the Pew survey I referenced yesterday. But many have not. Just over half of Americans aged 65+ have done so, compared with 36% for those aged 50-64. Understandably, most young Americans—what the insurance industry calls the “young invincibles”—have not written down their wishes.

Overall, only 29% of Americans have created a living will. But that’s a big improvement from the 1990s when only 12% had one. The majority (63%) of older Americans with at least one living child have had discussions with their children about end-of-life wishes. It’s almost always the parent who initiates the conversation, rarely the children. Daughters are more likely than sons to have these conversations with their aging parents.

How about you? If you have adult children, do they know your wishes about end-of-life?

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