“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
— Plato, The Republic

Conversation Starters

Sometimes we need a boost to get things started. Here are a few ideas for initiating the conversation with your loved ones:

  • “I was thinking about what happened to ___________ and it made me realize…….”
  • “I am thinking about the future and want to plan more clearly, your thoughts on things like this are important to me”
  • “I could use your help with something…”
  • “I just answered some questions about how I want the end of my life to be. I would like you to see my answers and I am wondering what your answers would be.”
  • “Even though I’m okay right now, I’m worried that ____________________, and I want  to be prepared.”

What to talk about:

  • When you think about the last phase of your life, what’s most important to you? How would you like this phase to be?
  • Do you have any particular concerns about your health? About the last phase of your life?
  • What affairs do you need to get in order, or talk to your loved ones about? (Personal finances, property, relationships)
  • Who do you want (or not want) to be involved in your care? Who would you like to make decisions on your behalf if you’re not able to? (This person is your health care proxy.)
  • Would you prefer to be actively involved in decisions about your care?
  • Or would you rather have your doctors do what they think is best?
  • Are there any disagreements or family tensions that you’re concerned about?
  • Are there important milestones you’d like to be there for, if possible? (The birth of your grandchild, your 80th birthday...)

How to start:

  • Where do you want (or not want) to receive care? (Home, nursing facility, hospital)
  • Are there kinds of treatment you would want (or not want)? (Resuscitation if your heart stops, breathing machine, feeding tube)
  • When would it be okay to shift from a focus on curative care to a focus on comfort care alone?


  • Be patient. Some people may need a little more time to think.
  • You don’t have to steer the conversation; just let it happen.
  • Don’t judge. A “good” death means different things to different people.
  • Nothing is set in stone. You and your loved ones can always change your minds as circumstances change.
  • Every attempt at the conversation is valuable.
  • This is the first of many conversations—you don’t have to cover everyone or

This list doesn’t cover everything you may need to think about, but it’s a good place to start.

Now, just go for it!

Each conversation will empower you and your loved ones. You are getting ready to help each other live and die in a way that you choose.