While 60% of people indicate making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is “extremely important,” 56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes. According to this 2012 survey of Californians by the California HealthCare Foundation, people expect family members to read their minds on end-of-life care preferences.
Unfortunately, this means too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty and uncertain.
The Conversation Project, a nonprofit organization co-founded by columnist Ellen Goodman, is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. They offer a wonderful free tool kit to help get the conversation started.
I interviewed Martha Hayward, who leads public and patient engagement for The Conversation Project, as the first guest on my new Internet radio program, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die.
Among the topics discussed were the natural human tendency to avoid talking about death, the evolution of advance directives and the emergence of POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment), and stories of “good” deaths versus the conflicts associated with drawn-out medical interventions.
“It’s time to transform our culture so we shift from not talking about dying to talking about it. It’s time to share the way we want to live at the end of our lives. And it’s time to communicate about the kind of care we want and don’t want for ourselves,” said Hayward.
“We believe that the place for this to begin is at the kitchen table—not in the intensive care unit—with the people we love, before it’s too late.”
The Conversation Project offers free conversation starter kits in English and Spanish. These PDF documents help people get their thoughts together before having “the conversation.” There are different kits for conversations with doctors and with family.
The documents do not provide legal advice. That’s your role. You might check out their conversation starter kits at www.TheConversationProject.org and consider sharing them with your clients.
Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death®, is author of the award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. She hosts a television/DVD interview series, A Good Goodbye TV and Internet radio program at RockStarRadioNetwork.com. She uses humorous film and TV clips to help start funeral planning conversations. Her website is www.AGoodGoodbye.com.
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American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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