The Conversation Project: Talking About End-Of-Life CareNovember 10, 2016
It’s a simple fact: We will all die someday. It’s a hard thing to talk about. In fact, only 27% of people have talked about end-of-life care with their loved ones — even though 90% of people think having that conversation is important (Source: The Conversation Project).
That’s why The Conversation Project — a nonprofit helping people talk about their end-of-life wishes — is speaking up to say that talking matters. Since 2010, The Conservation Project (TCP) has equipped families, friends, caregivers, and clergy with the tools to chip away at our fear of discussing death. TCP gives people a great place to start with free resources, like the Conversation Starter Kit, which empowers people to both communicate their own wishes and help their loved ones share their wishes. The project aims to reach people where they live, work, and pray.
Death is a deeply spiritual experience, and a person’s end-of-life wishes are often informed by their faith. For those wishes to be respected, communicating them is critical. Yet even in houses of worship, death remains a difficult subject to discuss, especially when we are confronted with the reality of our own mortality. TCP’s Conversation Sabbath invites clergy to initiate dialogues about end of life in comfortable, safe spaces during Nov. 11-20.
“The simple idea of Conversation Sabbath is to call on clergy of many faiths to preach or teach about the vital importance of having ‘The Conversation’ with loved ones and health care providers about their end-of-life wishes — sooner rather than later,” said Rev. Rosemary Lloyd, Advisor to Faith Communities for TCP.
People tend to turn to faith in times of crisis, like when a loved one develops a serious or life-threatening illness. In times like this, spiritual leaders are called on to provide support and guidance, and even mediate conflicts, often when families have not talked about what their loved one wants for the end of their life.
Conversation Sabbath provides clergy with free toolkits and sample sermons to speak candidly with their congregations, encouraging them to take this lesson home and share with loved ones and health care providers before crises arise. Lloyd invites health care providers and clergy to work together to get the conversation going.
“We encourage palliative, hospice, primary, acute, and home health care systems to reach out to community clergy in their service areas to encourage them to join Conversation Sabbath this month,” said Lloyd. “Clergy are poised to be compassionate allies to health care professionals serving the most seriously ill.”
Lloyd saw the power of having The Conversation firsthand while leading a Conversation Starter Kit workshop at a church in Massachusetts. She noticed one couple sitting at the front of the room, both in their mid-80s, both reacting to the situation quite differently. While the wife was socializing with the group around her, her husband remained quiet and reserved. During the workshop, participants were asked to complete the sentence, “What matters the most to me at the end of my life is…” When it came time to share answers, Lloyd saw that the wife was crying.
Lloyd approached her and asked what was wrong. The wife said, “He has dementia and he doesn’t talk very much anymore. He wrote this. I didn’t know he was thinking about this,” as she showed Lloyd her husband’s workbook. His response to the question? “[What matters most to me at the end of my life is…] to know that my wife is safe and secure and the she knows how much I love her and appreciate everything she does for me.” She and Lloyd cried together.
“Talking matters. And when we cultivate a subtle day-to-day awareness of our mortal selves — it actually helps us to live better, fuller lives,” said Lloyd. “Today is the day to be alive while you are alive. And that is why I do this work. It sounds like it’s about our dying. But it’s really about our living.”
Want to learn more or even start a conversation of your own? Visit TheConversationProject.org. Share your thoughts, experiences, and stories on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TalkingMatters.
Want to learn how post-acute providers can talk about end-of-life care? Get these free resources developed by Barbara Karnes, RN:
Webinar: New Rules for End of Life Care: What All Post-Acute Providers Should Know
Webinar: Dementia at End of Life: What All Post-Acute Providers Should Know
Tip Sheet: Frequently Asked Questions About Dementia at End of Life
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