'The Conversation' You Need to Have This Holiday Season

Now is the time to discuss end-of-life wishes, says the founder of the Conversation Project

by Gary Drevitch • Next Avenue
woman and senior mother embrace image
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

If you're going to visit your parents during the holiday season, or your kids are coming to see you, we'd like to suggest a topic of conversation to raise after you've updated each other on your lives: Your end-of-life wishes.
 
Several years ago, Ellen Goodman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Boston Globe, was forced into the position of decision-maker for her mother. As her mom's health declined, Goodman quickly realized that the two of them had never talked about her end-of-life wishes. "After all the years I had written about these issues," she now says, "I was still blindsided by the inevitable."

(MORE: 5 Reasons I Won't Die the Way My Mother Did)

After her mother's death, Goodman began sharing her experience with friends and colleagues and quickly discovered that "everybody had a story," she says. "As a journalist, when you start talking about something and everybody has a story, that's when you know there's something in the air.

"And when we start sharing stories, that's a real impetus to social change. That's the way the women's movement started, with women hearing stories and saying, 'I thought I was the only one.'"

In 2010, Goodman launched the Conversation Project, in conjunction with experts from the fields of medicine, the media, and long-term care. Their goal: encourage people across the country to talk about their wishes for end-of-life care and provide them with tools to make the conversation easier. "The country is at a tipping point," when it comes to addressing issues we once scrupulously avoided discussing, Goodman says. "We're helping that happen."

Read more about the Conversation Project on Next Avenue

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