How to Begin End-of-Life Conversations

Having conversations about end-of-life issues can be an important part of ensuring people experiencing homelessness are informed about their care options and have their needs met. These conversations can be difficult and intimidating to start and outside a person’s comfort zone. But knowing about a person’s circumstances and preferences means there is a better chance of supporting the person as they want to be in their last days. However, it is important to remember that these conversations do not have to happen all at once.

Tips to Facilitate End-of-Life Discussions

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Practice reflective listening
  • Clarify what you have heard and get more details
  • Summarize what you have understood
  • Use a few minimal prompts

Consider asking questions like these:

  • Who is considered “family” to you?
  • Have you thought about trying again to reconnect with your family and friends?
  • Can you tell me more about your spiritual beliefs? What practices do you partake in?
  • Would you like someone to help you in decision-making? If so, who would you like to help?
  • Can you tell me more about why you do [or don’t] want further treatment?
  • Who are the people you want to know about your diagnosis?
  • What treatments do you want or not want as your health deteriorates?
  • As your sickness gets worse, there are different places you can be in for your health care. Some people prefer maybe to be in the hospital, some in a shelter, and some in a hospice, and some on the street. Where would you want to be cared for in those later stages?
  • Who might you like or not like to have around throughout an illness or after you have died? Who should be notified?
  • Who might you want to have your possessions or pets?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • What kind of funeral or memorial would you like?