I recently attended the first annual meeting of the national Coalition to Transform Advanced Illness Care (C-TAC). Most striking was this: amidst the high-level discussion about healthcare systems changes, public engagement and policy improvements, the over-riding theme was stories. The personal stories from the speakers and panelists about the death of a loved one.
Even the 3 U.S. Senators who spoke (both republican and democratic) began with how their personal stories motivated them to want to improve national policy on this issue. The stories were both of “good deaths” and “bad deaths.”
Everyone has these stories, whether about the death of a parent, a grandparent, a close friend. Which is why you should consider using their power when it comes to your clients’ health care directives and advance care planning. You can elicit their stories, but you can also share your own.
Telling your personal story to clients and prospects can be a good way to:
- Explain what healthcare directives are for
- Convey why it’s important to families to document one’s wishes and talk about them
- Create an emotional connection with clients and prospects
While it may not be appropriate to reveal to clients what sort of estate planning vehicles and decisions your own parents or grandparents made and what happened when they died, you can probably share what happened when they were hospitalized, whether their medical wishes were followed, and whether they were even known.
For some examples of how you might succinctly tell your own story about the death of a loved one, see The Conversation Project. It contains the stories of a number of leaders in medicine, clergy, and the media who came together to share their own stories about the deaths of their own loved ones. Founded by former syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, this initiative helps people create a comfortable, safe way to talk about their goals for living with and dying from advancing illness
The Conversation Project also has great suggestions on how clients can start their own conversation with loved ones about their health care wishes and how to guide it. Tell them to read the “opening lines” suggestions from The Conversation Project. Tell them to use its guides for when and where they might like to have this conversation. Tell them they have to do it. Sooner or later, their adult children will thank you.
Randi J. Siegel,MBA, is the President of DocuBank(docubank.com), the largest advance directives registry in the U.S., which ensures that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 200,000 enrollees are immediately available 24/7/365. Working with estate planning professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries. A member of the International Society of Advance Care Planning, she is active in health policy and health education related to advance care planning and advance directives and serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National Healthcare Decisions Day initiative. Randi is an ongoing contributor to the Academy blog.
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