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."
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."
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