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The Conversation Project – Making Families Feel Better about End of Life Conversations

My great uncle Andy was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, delivering meals to seniors several times a week. He began volunteering after his own retirement and continued until he was in his mid-90s! He was in an excellent health and did not pass away until he was 99. He simply went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up.

While we might all wish for such a long, fulfilling life and such a peaceful death, the unfortunate fact is that my great uncle Andy’s fate is not the way most of us or our older relatives will see our lives end. Many of us have aging parents and grandparents, and while having financial discussions with them is hard enough, perhaps even harder is discussing how they would like their end of life experience to be. “Sixty percent of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is ‘extremely important'”, but “56% have not communicated their end of life wishes” (The Conversation Project [3]).

The Conversation Project was developed to help make having this type of discussion easier and to bring attention to the need to have this talk.

How The Conversation Project Began

Ellen Goodman, who is co-founder of The Conversation Project [4], could talk to her mother about everything and anything. The only thing they didn’t talk about was how her mother wanted to be treated at the end of her life. Goodman, whose mother was unable to express her own desires at the end of her life, was forced to decide if her mother would want increasingly invasive treatments to prolong her life. As a result of this difficult situation, she worked with others to create The Conversation Project.

What Is The Conversation Project?

The Conversation Project brings the issue of end of life wishes to the forefront. We all know we are going to die, but we avoid having important conversations about how we want to die and too often, our loved ones are left to decide what we would or would not want to happen to us.

The Conversation Project leads you step by step through the process of having this discussion through a kit you can download [5] on their site. How would you want the end of your life to be? Do you want invasive measures such as a feeding tube or life support? Under what conditions would you not like invasive measures? By speaking openly and honestly, loved ones know what each person wants, and if something happens, either to an elder or even someone younger who has an accident or gets sick, there is no need to wonder what they would want or to feel guilt over your decisions because you will be acting based on what the person expressed that they wanted.

ABC World News [6] recently shared the story of 3 generations sitting down together to have The Conversation, and unlike the doom and gloom you may picture with this type of conversation, it was a discussion filled with love and understanding. Going forward, family members will know how each person would like to be treated at the end of their life, making death a little less painful and guilt-filled.

Have you had this conversation before with your family?