• SeniorNews

How to Guide | How to Begin a Difficult Conversation

By Beloit Regional Hospice

Hospice Care always begins with a conversation, specifically surrounding goals, but there are many other topics to cover, so we have become experts in facilitating dialog among family members and loved ones. We know that the end-of-life journey brings about many questions. There is often waiting and lots of unknowns to be considered. We firmly believe that open, honest conversation can make the entire aging process less complicated. These lessons can also be applied across a variety of scenarios.

Here are some practical considerations as you approach any difficult conversation.

• Meet the individual where they’re at.


• Speak at their eye level.

• Make sure the space you’re holding the conversation in is a comfortable one.

• Consider privacy, but also any additional factors that may help ease you and your loved one into a relaxed and calm state.


• Respect their personal feelings and any belief systems they may hold. If you are unfamiliar with their spiritual views, ask probing questions to begin forming an understanding of them.

• Learn their view of a successful resolution to the issue at hand, before you share your personal view.

• Remember that compromise is always possible.

• Remain calm.

• You won’t want to feel rushed- so give an appropriate amount of time to cover all the various aspects of each situation.

• If you begin to feel stressed, take a brief break. Grabbing a drink of water or visiting the restroom are easy ways to give yourself a moment to regroup.

• It is also ok to pause a situation if you feel that communication lines are breaking down. You do not want to ‘push through’ a difficult subject and end up saying something in haste, that will prevent any resolution to your situation.

• Practice active listening

• Pay attention to the individual- giving them undivided attention and acknowledge the message and the fact that the situation is difficult.

• Provide feedback, but make sure that you are responding appropriately.

• Do not make judgements, but request clarification and be attuned to feelings and changes in body language.

We also hope that in considering these tips, you can begin to reframe how you think about end-of-life discussions. The process can be smoother if you consider end-of-life care conversations as opportunities to learn about your loved ones, not ‘difficult conversations’.

Beloit Regional Hospice has tools to help encourage communication between family members. These tools are available to the public at any time, just contact our Outreach Department for more information. or by calling 608-363-7421.

Beloit Regional Hospice staff and volunteers are leaders in quality and compassion. Through teamwork they advocate for appropriate care while respecting the right of patients to choose their journey, and above all hope is always embraced at the end of life. The non-profit organization's mission is, "To help make each moment of remaining life as full and comfortable as possible," for terminally ill individuals and families in the counties of Boone, Green, Rock, Walworth, Winnebago, Stephenson and McHenry.

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