Six tips for talking about advance care planning

It’s human nature to avoid difficult or uncomfortable topics about the future, especially when it comes to health and personal care. But for people with dementia who will eventually become unable to express their wishes, planning ahead is essential.

Addressing the subject directly and creating a plan will make things easier for everyone involved later on by reducing distress and facilitating decision-making.

Here are six tips for getting started:

  • Choose a time and place where everyone involved feels safe and comfortable.

  • If it feels uncomfortable to talk about, it’s okay to acknowledge that. Sometimes a bit of humor can help take off the pressure.

  • If the other person refuses to talk or changes the subject, try saying “That’s okay, we don’t have to talk about it right now but it’s something I would like to talk about soon. I want to be sure I know your wishes so I can act on them when the time comes.”

  • It’s okay to express your emotions. It’s perfectly normal to feel sad. Talking about future care can be upsetting.

  • If you find the discussion overwhelming, it’s okay to continue the conversation at another time. Advance care planning is a process. It doesn’t need to happen all at once.

  • This is a conversation about you and the person you support, so encourage the person with dementia to be involved as much as they’re able.

Learn more about planning for the future and check out for more information, including this online workbook.

Last Updated: 11/08/2017