6 Health talks you need to have

Susannah Hickling

Make sure you make time to speak with your nearest and dearest about the subjects we all too often avoid—our health

1. Family medical history

Getting to know your family health history on both sides will help you manage your own health better. It will also help your children. Some conditions run in families, including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. If you understand your risk, you can change your lifestyle, make sure you have screenings that could detect problems early, such as mammograms, and even look into genetic testing. Ask a few questions at your next family gathering—you might be surprised at what you find out.

 

2. Organ donation

Thousands of people in the UK are currently waiting for an organ transplant. Up until now, you have been expected to opt in to organ donation. However, the system is now changing and everyone who is eligible to donate will be assumed to give consent to their organs being used after death unless they opt out. Your family would still be approached for final approval, so it's important that you talk to loved ones about your wishes. Visit organdonation.nhs.uk

 

3. Mental health problems

Around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year, according to the charity Mind. Mental health and addiction can have genetic components, so it’s important to discuss it with your family. It may also help you and your loved ones get the right support.

 

4. Lasting power of attorney

Consider setting up a lasting power of attorney in case of an accident or illness which means you no longer have the mental capacity to manage your own affairs. It can cover decisions about health, welfare, property and financial affairs. You appoint one or more people to make these decisions on your behalf should it become necessary but can only be used if you are unable to make them yourself. Naturally, you’ll need to discuss this legal document with your nearest and dearest, especially if they are appointed as your attorneys. Visit gov.uk/power-of-attorney

 

5. Advance care planning

It’s not nice to think about but it’s important to let those close to you know your wishes if you become very ill and unable to communicate. Do you want to die at home? Would you want to refuse treatment in certain circumstances? You can even discuss practical details, such as who looks after your dog if you fall ill. And, as you age, it may be a good idea to give written permission for a trusted member of your family to speak to your GP on your behalf, as data protection legislation can make that difficult otherwise.

 

6. Grudges, grievances and unspoken family secrets

Forgiving, apologising or simply getting difficult issues and past mistakes out in the open can lift a real burden. Don’t leave it too late and then live with guilt or regret. And, if possible and appropriate, don’t die without telling important truths, such as letting your adult child know who their biological father is. It’s important to find peace and to try and set your house in order for the sake of you and those around you. 

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