The Conversation Project: Discussing End of Life Care

Megan Staley, Gerontology PhD Program | November 18, 2014
The Conversation Projects stresses the need to discuss end of life decisions with your family.

The Conversation Projects stresses the need to discuss end of life decisions with your family.

On November 3, students, faculty, and staff of the Department of Gerontology at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies learned about The Conversation Project from its Executive Director Harriett Warshaw. This initiative, cofounded by Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman and Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman, aims to create a cultural change in our inter-generational relationships from "not talking to talking" about end of life care and wishes.

According to Warshaw, only 56% of people have communicated their end of life wishes. Through awareness, accessibility, and availability, the Conversation Project wants to get people talking not about their wills, estates, or advanced directives, but about who will take care of them should they need care, where they will die, who do they want there, and which measures will be taken. Dying is a uniquely individual experience and, with much longer end of life phases, there does not seem to be a good reason as to why they cannot be treated as such.

Death is hard to talk about, so the founders and staff members at the Conversation Project have created a conversation starter kit, available in English, French, Spanish, and Mandarin. This kit includes a printable PDF that provides conversation starters as well as exercises for family members to get everyone thinking about what they might want at the end of life. The kit also offers tools to keep the conversation going and supplemental kits for parents with terminally ill children and suggestions on how to talk to doctor(s).

Warsaw spoke as part of the Fall 2014 Gerontology Seminar Series.

The Conversation Project began in 2010 by concerned members of the media, clergy, and medical professionals who wanted to help make these difficult conversations easier and ensure that end-of life wishes are expressed and respected.

Tags: end of life care , gerontology , the conversation project

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