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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Swan

How to Have "the" Conversation with Aging Parents

“80% of people say they want to talk to their doctors about end-of-life planning,” Dr. Jo Anne Grace told the group that gathered last Thursday as part of the free speaker series.  “But how many actually do?  Only 7%.”

When she asked for a show of hands, only one person in the room had had “the” talk with her physician.  “Good for you,” she said.  “You’re part of that 7%.”

Dr. Grace is part the Hospice Program at Northwest Colorado Health, and in her many years there, she has seen the conversation happen in many ways, in situations both calm and stressed.  And she prefers to see people take action in advance.

Over the next hour, Dr. Grace led the group in a workshop-style meeting, using a handout from

The conversation is more complicated than you might imagine.  Have you considered:

Do you want to know how long you have to live, or do you think ignorance is bliss?

Do you want to trust your doctor’s orders, or have a say in every decision?

Do you want your loved ones to abide by your wishes, even if it makes them uncomfortable; or do you rather they do what brings them peace, even if it’s contrary to what you expressed?

Even if you haven’t explicitly thought about your end-of-life decisions, you likely have opinions on the answers to these questions.  And your opinions are important; they help you live and die with dignity, in the way you choose.

Because these are such tough questions, it’s understandable that many people won’t face them until they have difficult decisions to make, or avoid them altogether.

The problem with waiting is that it puts your decision makers–often, the people closest to you, who love you and only want what’s best–in a difficult position to decide.

When it comes to having “the” conversation, getting started is often the hardest part.

You may also be thinking of someone you know and love, someone who should be thinking about end-of-life care, and Northwest Colorado Health can help you start that conversation as well.

How about a simple:

“I need to think about the future.  Will you help me?”

Swan Law is also here to help.  If you or a loved one needs to have the conversation, we have the tools and expertise to make the conversation easy and comfortable.  Give us a call at 970-879-1572 or email

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