Well here we are in the midst of the holiday season once again! This is the favorite time of year for many of us---- a time when we get together with the whole family to celebrate and enjoy one another. Since family members often travel home for the holidays, visits may last for more than a few hours—maybe a few days or even a week. It is truly a time to re-connect with our loved ones. What better time to initiate “The Conversation”…..
Let’s face it: people do not like to talk about accidents, illness or death. Most people say that they don’t want their families burdened by having to make end of life decisions, but many have never discussed their preferences. By not telling your family the kind of care you want, you give up your decision-making power to others—the hospital, doctors, or a relative who may not share your preferences. The best way to share these thoughts is BEFORE there is a crisis.
In fact, it is well-documented that end of life discussions actually ease the pain of death for family members. Families share many stories about their experiences with death---both good and bad.
For example, when James P. died from complications of heart disease, his family knew just what to do. He had picked out his casket, plaque for his gravesite and even the music for his funeral. He had also made his medical wishes very clear to his family. The family felt that this was the greatest gift he had given them because when James lost consciousness during the last weeks of his life, they could tell his doctors that he did not want them to prolong his life artificially. The family could make this decision with no guilt because they were confident that they were executing his wishes. It was a huge burden lifted from their shoulders.
Other families have very different experiences in the face of a crisis. There may be no designated health care proxy, living will or even conversations about end of life wishes. Family members may disagree among themselves about a course of action. This can be very traumatic for families.
“We all know that 100% of us are going to die, but starting the conversation is often hard,” said Ellen Goodman, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and founder of The Conversation Project. This project is designed to help families start a conversation about their wishes if they become ill or incapacitated. The organization grew out of Goodman’s experience when her mother became ill and passed away.
“I was faced with a series of cascading decisions for which I felt unprepared and blindsided,” said Goodman, whose mother had never laid out her desires. “I wish I could have heard her voice in my ear as I was going through this process.” Polls consistently say it’s important to put their end of life issues in writing, but most have not done so. “It’s always too soon,” said Goodman, “until it’s too late.”
For more information about how to initiate “The Conversation” with your loved ones, visit www.theconversationproject.org.Sources: Lisa Stark, ABC News; Penelope [email protected]; The Conversation Project