Making a will, end-of-life plans, various health issues and even downsizing – these are the topics that are very difficult to tackle with ageing family members, but starting the conversation now will give everyone involved peace of mind.
It's strange how these days we're so open about many topics but when it comes to the end-of-life experience, we often enter into a conspiracy of silence.
Parents don't "have the talk" because they don't want to worry their children, and the children in turn are reluctant to even consider their parents actually dying one day.
However, it is the nature of things that we are all born and grow and then we die – no one gets out alive.
Bringing up these tricky subjects with family shouldn't be saved for our dotage.
I'm having these chats with my children and it's never too soon to plan ahead or to make a will. My own kids are at least considering their own mortality and, as we all realise, bad things can happen to young people too.
It's good to know your family members' thoughts on organ donation and the type of funeral and burial or cremation they would like.
With elderly and ageing parents, the first time for this talk should not be in the doctor's office, and certainly not in the emergency department or in the back of an ambulance.
Ideally, it's good to have this conversation in a relaxed way around the dining table, with a bit of humour involved.
My parents were like this – we all knew the hymns they liked and various readings or poems they preferred.
Mum even had a list of catering requirements for her funeral, with asparagus rolls and little potato-topped pies being high on the list.
We had written instructions to offer tea and coffee, but also a brandy and dry with lemon and bitters – known in our family as a "horse's neck".
My father's instructions were also mainly to do with the after-function and included directions about varieties of single malt whisky and plenty of mixers – it was very important to him that we didn't run out at the bar.
He had us, his children, even practise being pallbearers by carrying the sofa up and down the drive shoulder-high… being an old returned serviceman he wanted things to be pretty shipshape and done in true military fashion.
A good way to start this difficult and often put-off conversation could be: "I'm worried about what might happen if you're ill and I have to make decisions for you. I've thought about my own wishes and end-of-life plans and I wonder if you can help me by talking about yours."
Smile as you bring up the topic and remember it's not a Grim Reaper discussion. I think we all worry that our parents and our beloved oldies will think we're expecting or even waiting for them to die.
Don't be tempted to put this conversation in the too-hard basket or to settle for a "whatever will be, will be" scenario.
It's not a discussion about what's the matter with you. It's more to do with what matters to you – what you want to happen and how you want your end-of-life experience to reflect the whole of your life.
When I've discussed this with other people – close friends, my kids, families in hospice care and my siblings – the conversations are rich and deep and always produce an emotional connection. It brings us together in a very human way.
In my experience, the difference between a good death and a difficult death seems to be whether the dying person has shared his or her concerns and wishes.
People who have had this conversation leave their loved ones less stressed and regretful.
It's a simple conversation, but it can be a real gift to all.
Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, I must make a wee note about Champagne… I definitely want Champagne at my funeral – and a fabulous organ recital too.
- WeddingsDying bride's perfect day: My final dream has come true
Woman's DayToday 2:25pm
- RoyalsPrince Harry's trick to beating a heatwave? ‘Budgie smugglers’, he says
Now To LoveToday 1:00pm
- TVWhat drove these celebs to sign up for Celebrity Treasure Island
Woman's DayToday 12:35pm
- Pregnancy & BirthWhy model Ashley Graham's baby bump photo has got everyone talking
Now To LoveToday 12:07pm
- RoyalsDuchess Catherine honours this lucky nine-year-old to celebrate World Photography Day
Now To LoveToday 11:15am
- CareerI loved him like a son: Phil Kingsley Jones remembers Jonah Lomu in his final years
New Zealand Woman's WeeklyToday 9:29am
- TVMatty McLean says he's lived some of his proudest moments on Celebrity Treasure Island
New Zealand Woman's WeeklyToday 9:09am
- TVThe redemption of former All Black Zac Guildford on Celebrity Treasure Island
Now To LoveYesterday 8:45pm
- TVKarl Burnett quits Celebrity Treasure Island as mental health suffers
Now To LoveYesterday 8:30pm
- Married at First SightMAFS' Cyrell Paule is expecting a baby with Love Island's Eden Dally
Now To LoveYesterday 1:21pm
- Pregnancy & BirthAll the gorgeous details from Samantha Hayes’ 'beautiful' baby shower
Now To LoveYesterday 12:17pm
- TVFour curious things we've learned about the stars on Celebrity Treasure Island
Now To LoveYesterday 10:42am
- TVThe first trailer for Married at First Sight NZ has been released and it's utter chaos
Now To LoveYesterday 9:48am
- RoyalsDuchess Meghan and Prince Harry jet off on another family holiday to the south of France
Now To LoveYesterday 9:15am
- FamilyWhy Karl Burnett is hoping to be voted off Celebrity Treasure Island
Woman's DayYesterday 8:30am