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Guide to Talking to Parents About End-of-Life Planning

Death has never been a comfortable subject of discussion. For some, this might be because of the emotional response it triggers: talking about death means facing the topic of final, inevitable loss head on, and often this is not a topic we find easy or enjoyable. For others, talking about death leads to further conversations that are sometimes stressful or awkward. These might range from anything as practical as arranging end of life services to anything as detailed as settling financial concerns and the division of estate. For whatever reason, our society tends to avoid conversations about death and this aversion has helped lead to its stigmatization as a taboo subject. We do not want to upset ourselves or others by bringing up an emotionally distressing topic. We do not want to cause rifts or discomfort by talking about money. We do not want to panic or unsettle if the problem is not immediate. We stick our heads in the sand and we soldier on and we hope for the best.



But how silly this approach is..! If there is one thing we can all be sure of in our lifetime, it is that we too will die. We may not need to look forward to our moment of departure with excitement or even calm resolution, but we can certainly embrace its inevitability and gain some control over this most uncontrollable of events by putting plans in place: plans that might set out our wishes for end-of-life care; outline our preferences for funeral services and ensure that our loved ones feel fairly treated and looked after in our will. We wholeheartedly believe that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from beginning open dialogue with your nearest and dearest about death, and in this guide we explore how you can go about starting to do this with your parents. 


Look for your opening

Why don’t people talk to their parents about end of life plans? Often because they do not believe their parents would like to talk about them. For many reasons, some of which we have touched upon in our introduction, people fear their parents might be caused discomfort by the topic and in turn that it is one best avoided. They therefore never broach the subject and, in doing so, often miss the realisation that their parents might be far more receptive to the topic than they initially assumed. Before you write off the possibility of talking to your parents about death, and primarily because of fearing it is a conversation they would not like to have, we suggest you test the waters. Listen out for subtle hints that they might be open to the conversation: throw-away remarks or seemingly light-hearted jokes such as ‘I might not be around to see that’ or the ole ‘hurry up and give me some grandkids’ might prove a convenient opening for starting the conversation and you may be pleasantly surprised by how willing they are to engage once the topic has been bought up. It may well be that they have given the subject some thought before, or even already put some plans in place. 


Choose the right moment to start the dialogue

If you’re lucky, your parents will give you the perfect opening to talk to them about end of life plans: they may even bring up the topic themselves. If you are not so lucky and are struggling to find an appropriate time to start the conversation, you might feel reassured to first pick a suitable place to start the conversation. Choosing to talk to them in an environment that you are all relaxed in will be helpful; whether you decide this is in their home, on a walk or over a favourite meal. We are confident that once you start the discussion you’ll be surprised by how straightforward it can be, but it won’t hurt to choose a setting that encourages relaxation and openness and feels familiar.


Decide how to begin talking about end-of-life planning

If you’re worried that your discussion of their end-of-life plans might prompt an unhappy response from your parents, why not begin the dialogue by first explaining your own end-of-life plans? If you lead by example and set your own plans in place, you will be able to demonstrate how simple, practical and unemotional the process can be, and in turn encourage them to do the same. By talking about yourself and your own end-of-life wishes, you will have broken the ice concerning death, and will have done so without ‘targeting’ or ‘hassling’ your parents. They can simply listen, now having had the subject of death broached, and possibly take note of your decisions as potential steps they would like to copy too. Making your own end-of-life arrangements will be a means of getting the ball rolling and will likely prompt your parents to, if not do the same, at least begin discussions concerning the subject. 


Be mindful of which aspects of end-of-life planning you focus on

A conversation concerning end-of-life planning can be as extensive and broad as you would like. It could include the subject of end-of-life care in hospices, care homes or with live-in carers. It might delve into the different possible funeral options and the finances that will be used to pay for these. This conversation might even go so far as outlining who will receive what in the will and division of estate. It is therefore worth bearing in mind if any of these subjects might prove to be a source of contention or distressing for some of the parties present. For example, if your parents might be distrustful of your intentions behind starting the conversation, believing you are solely focussed on the financial element, it may be fruitful to broach the topic of death by first addressing any medical issues and options for care. In much the same way, if your parents are cautious of going into care, it may be sensible to first focus on the details of their funeral and on whether or not they have any plans already in place. As humans, we often put off difficult conversations or tasks because there is some aspect that we find challenging and do not want to address. If you can identify which aspect of the conversation your parents might least be looking forward to, or which ‘dragon of inaction’ is holding them back, you will be better equipped to broach the topic and to navigate the conversation. 


Try to engage them and remember to be patient

At the end of the day, remember why you are having this conversation. Ultimately it will likely be to put plans in place that you are sure align with your parents’ wants and wishes. You want to ensure they are properly looked after in their final years and that their funeral service and the division of their estate happens exactly as they would have hoped for. This organisation will also be sure to save you stress further down the line, after the time of their passing. If you are able to give your parents tangible results from taking small steps in arranging their end-of-life plans, they will benefit from seeing your relief that things are in motion and from their own satisfaction that the process is being handled as they wished. Remember to incentivise them by giving them achievable, tangible steps to complete: these tasks could be anything as varied as picking a funeral plan to making note of their preferred music for the service. Whatever you involve them with, they will be sure to be motivated by seeing their choices actualised and their decisions put into place.



Arranging an end-of-life plan with Neo

If you are thinking of leading by example and of putting your own end-of-life plan in place, or are already helping your parents arrange their own, we at Neo cremations would be happy to help. Our support team is well trained to assist with everything from preliminary queries to more detailed, specialised questions and we are happy to do so at any stage of your planning. If you have already done some research and like the sound of putting a funeral plan in place, fixing future services at today’s prices and ensuring you have arranged a dignified end-of-life service, we offer our pre-paid funeral plan for a fixed cost of £1,595. What is more, this fee covers every penny of the Neo cremations unattended cremation so there are no hidden, unexpected costs to be met with later. 


Our plan includes:

  • Administrative support
  • Collection of the deceased and taking into our care
  • A solid FSC-certified pine wood coffin
  • A biodegradable urn
  • Hand delivery of the ashes if you so wish
  • A remembrance tree with a tree certificate 
  • Carbon offsetting 


To learn more about our funeral plan or to speak with one of our support team, please get in touch today. 

Lara Webster

Lead Content Writer

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