How can I persuade my mother to sign a living will?

6 answers | Last updated: Dec 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can I persuade my mother to sign a living will? She says she doesn't want to, although my sister and I have explained the necessity and the implications if she does not. She insists she does not want to be "kept alive" by machines, but it feels like she thinks we will hasten her death if given the opportunity.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Your mother's resistance is common--and often based on an interesting psychological block. Many people feel that if they sign such a document, they are giving up on life and on their own self-sufficiency.

But if there's one true thing that might help ease your mother's particular concern about living wills, or advance directives as they're generally called these days, it's this: They realistically cannot be used to hasten death. All that one can do--and it's a big thing it does--is ensure that your mother would get the types of medical treatment she would want provided or withheld if she became unable to express her specific wishes on her own.

While some people opt in their advance directives to name a person to make the care decisions for them, your mother does not seem like a good candidate for this. Encourage her instead to be as specific as she chooses about the type of medical care she wants.

From a practical standpoint, it may help to get another person in to explain the pros and cons to her. If she has a doctor she trusts, enlist him or her to do this job. Other potential objective sources would be a patient's representative at a hospital, an ombudsperson at a nursing home, or an experienced elder law attorney.

Community Answers

An hour 4 me answered...

My parents were pretty resistant as well. What actually made sense to them was when my mothers sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer.The two couples had been close for many years. My parents ere actually there when one of the discussions was had about advance directives. Since it was among thier peers, my father especially was able to think critically BEFORE "anything happened". Do any of her friends have advanced directives?

Papasgirl answered...

My girlfriend signed hers last November after surviving a heart attack. Too bad it took that disaster for her to understand the importance of it. Last week she was hopitalized for blood clots in her lung and while there the doctors had her so medicated on Dilaudid she was not responsive at all. She was just lying there getting sicker. Luckily she had signed those papers in November and I was able to go in and talk to the doctors and have her medication changed. She is now awake, aware and recovering.

Erp answered...

If she wont sign it for you and your sister, find a friend she trusts and ask the friend to talk to her. Often a contemporary has more influence that a "child" does.

Sadder answered...

When my late husband's cancer became out of control, he insisted - and I REsisted - the DNR (do not resuscitate) portion of the Advanced Directive. The doctor explained that once someone is in their final stages of a disease, being "brought back" does NOT bring them back to where they were physically prior to the crisis. They are in much worse shape and probably beyond help from painkillers. I hated the idea but it made sense and was certainly more humane.

An hour 4 me answered...

Sue, You are so right I often think we take better care of our animals than we do of each other. On this one front my entire family is in aggreement. None of us wants to be kept alive or brought back. I have only been in the hospital a few times but each time I have had advance directives. I advocate advance directives any time I can. Tt can be hard to talk about but I saw a place on line that has a kit to help people get the conversation going. Its at they make lots of different kinds of reuseable lists. The site is pretty basic but the lady that developed them is really nice and totally gets it.