Have You Had the Conversation?

people clapping A lot of things are easier said than done. Talking about end-of-life decision-making is one of them. But, physicians, more than anyone, know that these discussions are incredibly important and easier to be had before an actual illness and way easier to be had before a time of crisis –when such a discussion may no longer be possible. And, the data clearly show that we should be having these conversations. Did you know that 60% of people say it is “extremely important” that their family is not burdened by tough decisions, yet 56% of people haven’t talked about their end-of-life wishes? And, while 70% of people say they would like to die at home, that same percentage of people actually die in hospitals, long-term care facilities or nursing homes? And, I can only imagine, the health care providers reading this blog have seen some awful deaths in hospitals that they would definitely not like for themselves or their loved ones. So, how to proceed?

The Conversation Project is an organization dedicated to helping individuals have such end-of-life conversations with their loved ones as well as their physicians. The easy-to-navigate Conversation Project site thoughtfully provides conversation guides both in English and Spanish. The guides provide easy fill-in-the-blank sentences to help get you thinking, like, “What matters to me at the end of my life is _____.” Other questions utilize simple 5-point scales to help establish end-of-life values. The guides also provide suggested language to help you broach the subject with your loved ones.

And, while one conversation can make a big difference, don’t feel that it has to be exhaustive. If it is easier, you can view this conversation as a process. And, hopefully, by breaking the ice on this topic, subsequent conversations will be easier to have and you and your loved ones will feel empowered to further articulate your end-of-life values and wishes –and to share them with your physician(s). Finally, the website also provides information regarding advance directives and how to designate a health care proxy.

So, find a time to have the conversation with your loved ones, and end-of-life decision-making, when the time comes, will be much, much easier for everyone.

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