Experts Share 5 Ways to Start ACP Conversations with Our Parents

Experts Share 5 Ways to Start the Convo

Hearing about our parents’ Advance Care Planning (ACP) wishes helps ensure that they receive the type of care they prefer in future – but this topic may not be easy to broach with them. When should we ask them about their preferred treatment options, or place of care and death? How should we bring up this topic?

In a Living Wishes’ survey among 105 Singapore residents aged 35 to 59, it was found that 17% of respondents did not discuss their parents’ ACP preferences with them as they did not know how to begin the conversation. 

To help you get started on discussing ACP with your parents, we asked experts for advice on how we can start the conversation with the older generation.

#1: Be observant of our parents

As our parents grow older, there may be changes to the way they move and live. These changes could be a chance for us to ask about their care preferences, said Cynthia Chng, Manager of the Training Portfolio in the Advance Care Planning Team at the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC)

“When you notice something that you’re not quite used to, use that as an opportunity to raise that conversation about ACP,” she added.

#2: Use educational resources

Existing resources such as ACP brochures can introduce ACP to our parents and highlight the importance of discussing the topic with us.

Dr Adeline Lam, Advance Care Planning Co-Clinical Lead & Senior Consultant of General Medicine at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, suggested leaving such educational resources around the house for our parents to read, and asking them for their thoughts on it afterwards. This could be especially useful if our parents do not seem open to talking about ACP. 

You can download ACP resources from AIC, or follow our Facebook page for more updates on our ACP Conversation Starter Kits – coming to you in February 2022.

#3: Adopt a non-confrontational approach

“The conversation should be something that is very relaxed, that people want to do and are not forced into it,” said Dr Adeline Lam. 

Instead of bringing up ACP abruptly, it may be better to speak to our parents when a suitable opportunity arises in a comfortable setting.

#4: Discuss others’ experiences

Another way to initiate the conversation in a less affronting manner can be through discussing the experiences of a third party who faced a medical crisis, shared Dr Raymond Ng, Head of Palliative and Supportive Care at Woodlands Health Campus.

“You can ask your father or mother about this person you read about, or a friend, or a family member you know. Perhaps such ways may be less confrontational and less affronting to the elderly,” he added.

#5: Share short clips about ACP

Dr Adeline Lam also recommended showing our parents short video clips about ACP to introduce the topic. “There are some short clips on YouTube that talk about ACP. They could watch it, and that could be the start of the conversation,” she said.

Overview of Tips to Start ACP Conversations

While it may be difficult to deeply think and talk about one’s life, mortality and end-of-life care preferences, ACP is a crucial conversation for you to have with your parents. As their children, you play an important role in helping them open up and share their care preferences.

Who knows? You may find out something unexpected about their wishes, which may help to improve your relationship and communication with your parents.

Learn more about Advance Care Planning, or watch our latest video where experts share how to start an ACP conversation!