Death: Not An Easy Thing to Talk About

Last year, writer Ellen Goodman launched The Conversation Project, a program to promote discussing end-of-life issues. With support from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Goodman, 72, initiated the project six years after her own mother died. Goodman writes: “We talked about everything except one thing: how she wanted to live at the end of her life.”

The Conversation Project released results in September of a survey it conducted recently. According to the survey, 90 percent of those surveyed said they want to talk about end-of-life care, for their parents and for themselves. But only 30 percent of those surveyed had actually had family conversations about how to handle end-of-life. Goodman’s thought: “It’s always too early… until it’s too late.”

Among those who had not discussed end-of-life care with loved ones, 29 percent said they didn’t need to worry about it yet. 23 percent said the reason was they weren’t sick yet. 21 percent said the subject makes them uncomfortable. 19 percent said they didn’t want to upset their loved ones.

About one-fifth of those questioned who had not had end-of-life discussions said they were waiting for another loved one to bring up the subject. 48 percent said that if a loved one did ask about their desires for end-of-life care, they would welcome a discussion of their wishes.

Ellen Goodman points out that the conversations about how a person wants to face the end of his or her life serve to bring comfort not only to the person facing death, but also to those who survive. “Death is still a hard loss, but you can reduce depression and guilt if [survivors] feel that they have done what the person they love wanted.”

The conversations also serve to preempt family discord over the way a parent’s end-of-life care is handled. Goodman says, “The last thing that you want as a parent is for your kids to have a huge falling out at the end of your life.”

As a hospice care provider, we at Hope Hospice echo the thoughts expressed by Ellen Goodman. Family conversations about end-of-life issues are sometimes hard to get started, but they are of vital importance.

Click HERE to download The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit. It can provide help for families who want to get a conversation going.

For questions about hospice care in general and for specific questions about Hope Hospice, please call us in St. Louis at 314-984-9800.




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