How to Begin

Getting Started: Think First, Then Share

Think About:

  • What is important to you when making decisions about your health care
  • What your hopes and fears are for the future
  • Who knows you best and who do you trust to speak on your behalf if you’re not able
  • What you would or would not be willing to sacrifice for a chance to get better
  • What is most important to you if your doctors become worried that you are seriously ill or dying
  • When it would be okay to shift from a focus on curative care to a focus on comfort care alone


  • Your thoughts about all of these questions with your family, friends and healthcare providers.
  • Your goals and priorities to help guide the “in the moment” decisions that may need to be made. This will allow you to maintain as much control over your health care as possible.

Ice Breakers to Start the Conversation

  • “I need your help with something.”
  • “Remember how someone in the family died—was it a ‘good’ death or a ‘hard’
    death? How will yours be different?”
  • “I was thinking about what happened to _______, and it made me realize…”
  • “Even though I’m okay right now, I’m worried that ________, and I want to
    be prepared.”
  • “I need to think about the future. Will you help me?”
  • “I just answered some questions about how I want the end of my life to be.
    I want you to see my answers. And I’m wondering what your answers would be.”

Source: Conversation Starter Kit, The Conversation Project

What to Talk About

  • If you were too sick to speak for yourself, who should be involved in making decisions?
  • What should people know about you as a person to make sure you get the care that’s right for you?
  • If an illness got very serious and might take your life, what would be most important?