The Hard Talk: End-of-Life Arrangements for a Loved One
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A special thanks to our guest blogger, Beverly Nelson. With more people becoming caregivers for aging family every day, Beverly aims to provide as many resources as possible to help caregivers access the support they need.  ____________________________________________________________________________________

HardTalkWe often find in this life the most important things are sometimes the most difficult. While talking with a love one about crucial end-of-life arrangements is anything but pleasant, getting the details fleshed out can make the situation easier during an already challenging time. As unpleasant as it is to approach this topic, your loved one will eventually understand its necessity, even if they resist at first. 

Starting the Conversation 

When approaching the topic of end-of-life arrangements, it is important to be warm and kind, but also realistic. While it’s an inevitably emotional conversation, you don’t want sentiments to get in the way of rational decision-making. How you approach the topic will also set the tone for the entire conversation, so being calm and level-headed is a great start. 

As difficult as it is for you to talk about what needs to be done after your loved one dies, don’t forget how much more difficult this discussion will be for them. You can help dispel some of that discomfort by making your intentions known. Tell your loved one that planning is about making sure their wishes are honored and that you want them to be remembered exactly as they want. For a lot of people, it helps to remind them that doing this difficult planning now can make it easier on their loved ones in the future. 

A Family Affair 

If you are not your loved one’s main beneficiary, it’s important to promote these discussions, but it’s especially important for others to be involved in the discussion. Family members including spouses, children, siblings and even close friends should be a part of the planning. However, too many people can make effective communication difficult, especially if they are combative against the loved one’s wishes. Determining how many people can be included depends on the situation and personalities involved. 

Talking Points

It can be incredibly helpful to have a list of talking points ready when you finally sit down to have this conversation. As mentioned earlier, it’s easy for emotions to get in the way of things. Having everything spelled out on a sheet of paper in front of you can help keep the conversation on track

You don’t have to make sure the conversation is completely regimented. In fact, adjusting the conversation as it goes can lend you important insights regarding your loved one’s wishes. Having talking points in front of you is simply helpful for those moments where there is a lull in conversation and you’re not sure how to get back on track. 

Some things to keep in mind during the conversation: 

  • Assemble all of your loved one’s vital statistics: their full name, birth date, immediate relatives, occupation, military service, etc. This data is necessary for death certificates and other agencies. Some of the details can also be useful when drafting an obituary, should they want one.
  • Find out if they have specific preferences for their funeral service, especially if they involve specific people. They may want a certain religious leader or family member to lead the service. Furthermore, many people want certain friends or relatives to give speeches at their memorial. These names should be among those you call when it is time to notify others of your loved one’s death.
  • Ask about how they wish to pay for their memorial services. For instance, do they have a burial policy associated with their life insurance? 
  • Even if they do not want services, they must choose what to have done with their remains and any particular memorialization they want. 
  • Consider drafting an obituary with your loved one, if they are interested. Beyond the vital statistics listed above, you may want to include things such as their date of marriage, alma maters, career highlights, volunteer work, board memberships and other recognitions. 


Talking to your loved one about end-of-life-arrangements is difficult for everyone involved. You can make it as easy as possible by setting the tone for the conversation in a kind but rational manner. Having talking points handy can also help keep the conversation on track. However, don’t be afraid to delve into things that come up naturally. You may be able to get better insights regarding how best to honor your loved one after they are gone. 

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