By Gail Rubin
When the family gathers this Thanksgiving, besides giving thanks for the bounty in your life, take advantage of this face time to talk turkey about end-of-life issues.
Sure, it’s easy to keep it superficial and focus on the football game. But with close relatives you don’t often see, grab the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion. Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals and end-of-life treatment won’t make you dead – and your family will benefit from the conversation.
Surveys indicate most older people say they want to die at home, but an estimated 60% die in a hospital or nursing home setting. People may say their families know what their wishes are, but they haven’t written them down or even talked about it.
Alexandra Drane, co-founder of the nonprofit organization Engage With Grace, created a means to jump start the conversation with The One Slide Project, five key questions that fit on one sheet of paper.
Drane launched the project in 2008 after the death of her sister-in-law “Za” at the age of 32 from cancer. Za almost died in the hospital, but because the family stood up to the system and did what they thought she would have wanted, they took her home. For the first time since she went to the hospital two months earlier, Za was able to hold and love her two-year-old daughter. The next night, Za peacefully died at home.
“What we as a nation need is a process to help minimize the gut-wrenching decisions that so often happen around end-of-life, leaving politics and policy out of it. That way we can all end our lives in the same way we lived them – with intent,” said Drane.
Answering the five questions on this one page can make the difference between fearful confusion and loving knowledge when a family member is hospitalized. The One Slide Project is available for download at www.EngageWithGrace.org.
The five questions are:
- On a scale of 1 to 5, where do you fall on this continuum? (1 being “Let me die in my own bed, without any medical intervention,” 5 being “Don’t give up on me no matter what, try any proven and unproven intervention possible”)
- If there were a choice, would you prefer to die at home, or in a hospital?
- Could a loved one correctly describe how you’d like to be treated in the case of a terminal illness?
- Is there someone you trust whom you’ve appointed to advocate on your behalf when the time is near?
- Have you completed any of the following: written a living will, appointed a healthcare power of attorney, or completed an advance directive?
This Thanksgiving, use these five questions to break the ice about these life and death issues. You won’t regret it.
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Gail Rubin is an event planner specializing in funerals and memorial services. She’s the author of the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die (www.AGoodGoodbye.com) and The Family Plot Blog.
CLICK HERE to download The One Slide from www.AGoodGoodbye.com.