My partner and I are nearer the end of our life than the beginning. We have talked about our wishes, but The Conversation Project reminds me we still have a lot of loose ends to tie up.
The Conversation Project is a collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. It grew out of Ellen Goodman’s harrowing experience of her mother’s dementia and death. She was unprepared for the decisions she had to make as her mother’s mental and physical health declined. In a piece for Second Journey, she wrote:
That’s why I started gathering with a group of colleagues and friends — doctors, care providers, clergy, and media — to share stories from our personal experiences of “good deaths” and “bad deaths” we had witnessed with loved ones. We talked about being faced with a cascading and confusing number of medical decisions and an uncertainty about the wishes of our parents, spouses, and friends.
And with that The Conversation Project was born, launched as a public engagement campaign on August 15, 2012, to advocate “kitchen table” conversations with family and friends about wishes for end-of-life care.
The statistics from The Conversation Project Starter Kit are startling.
- 60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is “extremely important”
- 56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes (Source: Survey of Californians by the California HealthCare Foundation (2012))
- 70% of people say they prefer to die at home
- 70% die in a hospital, nursing home, or long-term-care facility Source: Centers for Disease Control (2005)
- 80% of people say that if seriously ill, they would want to talk to their doctor about end-of-life care
- 7% report having had an end-of-life conversation with their doctor Source: Survey of Californians by the California HealthCare Foundation (2012)
- 82% of people say it’s important to put their wishes in writing
- 23% have actually done it Source: Survey of Californians by the California HealthCare Foundation (2012)
Looks as if even those of us who think we know our loved ones’ wishes, and they know ours, have holes in our planning. So I am grateful to The Conversation Project, to the resources they provide, and to those who are adding their stories to the site.
Death comes into our lives from the moment of our conception. It is as ordinary as comfort food but a lot less welcome at the dinner table. This project is making it easier to open the conversations we need to have, for the sake of our loved ones and for our own peace of mind. It gives me hope.