Conversation Project Is Catalyst for End-of-Life Planning

by Admin

End of life planning can be one of the most difficult discussions to have for any family, but deciding about that care when you are healthy can help those close to you when the time comes to make certain choices.

To keep the issue top of mind, April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day – a time for families to consider discussing end-of-life care, especially before an illness strikes.

Some people may want to bring up the issue at a small family gathering while others may want to broach the subject by announcing they’ve made a will, according to guidance offered by the National Institute on Aging.

“There is no right or wrong plan, only what they would like,” says the NIA.

The nonprofit Conversation Project was founded in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to serve as a public engagement campaign with a goal of having every person’s wishes for end-of-life care expressed and respected.

The Conversation Project conducted a national survey last August and found that 90% of the respondents said they want to have “the conversation,” but less than 30% are doing so.

“The reasons range from person to person,” said Mandy Ferguson, a project coordinator with the Conversation Project. “People are scared or afraid of what loved ones might think. …It’s always too early until it’s too late.”

The project offers a free online starter kit designed to offer tips and tools to talk about end-of-life issues. To date, more than 15,000 people have downloaded and printed it in English or Spanish. The Conversation Project also offers a guide on how to talk to a doctor about these issues.

Senior living communities also can work with the Conversation Project to offer presentations to residents and their families. The project shares its standard slide deck and offers basic training and other resources to announce Conversation Project-related events at their community. Communities interested in offering presentations on the project should contact Ferguson at mferguson@ihi.orgLink Icon or visit the project’s website at

Studies show that when there is a meaningful conversation about end-of-life choices, survivors report feeling less guilt, less depressing and an easier grieving process, she said.

The Conversation Project began in 2010 when Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ellen Goodman and a group of colleagues gathered to share stories of end-of-life care and planning. Goodman’s mother died in 2010 after suffering from dementia. While Goodman and her mother “talked about everything,” according to Ferguson, they never spoke about how she wanted to live at the end of her life. “… Ellen felt blindsided and unprepared and soon the Conversation Project started to help others so that they would not be in the same situation,” Ferguson said.

Goodman plans to host a free webinar on April 16 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT to discuss the project and the importance of making healthcare decisions. Registration is available here, requiring a first and last name as well as an email address.


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