Honest Talk

A reader is worried about how to provide support to her mother who is very frightened and tearful.


My mother has emphysema and is slowly dying. She had a time in hospital where she nearly died and is very frightened and tearful. I want to be there for her but don’t know what to say.

We downloaded the Advance Care Directive document. I thought I would work through this at a later date when she is ready as we don’t know her wishes around preparing for death.

When will I know to bring it up with her? What is a good way to talk about it and how can I best support her right now?


The best support for your mother is to be a calm caring self. Set the intention to be someone she can speak to deeply without judgement.  Find a quiet peaceful environment to affirm that she has had a frightening experience and offer to explore her fears.  She may anticipate the terrifying experience of not being able to breathe, for example and would feel reassured by knowing this can be avoided with palliative care. Honest talk about life and its purpose are priorities for you both. When she feels ready suggest documenting her wishes on the Advance Care Directive (www.advancecaredirectives.sa.gov.au).  It may be appropriate to ask a third person to assist as your mother may wish to avoid an upset with a close family member.  Preparing for the worst scenario and finding a palliative care solution often gives confidence, removes fears and gives quality to time remaining.

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