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Have the conversation everyone avoids

November 18, 2013
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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Whether young or old, healthy or frail, everyone will face the end of life. Incapacitation or death might come suddenly or be a drawn-out process. Families should be prepared to abide by their loved one’s wishes. Sadly, the end-of-life conversation seldom takes place.

According to a national survey by The Conversation Project conducted this fall, 9 out of 10 Americans want to talk about their end-of-life wishes, but only 30 percent have followed through. To stress the importance of and the opportunity to get families together on this topic, Elder Care Locater has launched its 11th annual Home for the Holidays campaign—an ideal time to address this delicate subject because all concerned parties are gathered together.


The campaign offers a downloadable guide, “Let’s Talk.” To avoid what is termed “conversation disconnect,” the guide is a valuable resource to initiating the questions that need to be asked, which include financial, health and end-of-life issues.

Why haven’t these conversations taken place? The survey found that 29 percent of Americans don’t think it’s time to have the conversation. Twenty- three percent of the respondents “aren’t sick.” Other reasons given are that the subject is uncomfortable and they don’t want to upset their loved ones.

The survey found, however, that one-fifth of the respondents were waiting for someone else to bring up the subject. “These talks…with loved ones need not be grim or frightening. In fact, they can be among the richest and most intimate conversations family members can have,” says Ellen Goodman, founder of The Conversation Project.


Long-term care facilities can recommend this resource to their clients. It’s an aspect of care many families ignore and, on occasion, it’s too late. “Older adults living in long-term care facilities and their families may find this guide useful as a checklist of items to discuss to help prepare them for any future life events,” says Mary Osborne, program manager, Eldercare Locator. She adds: “Being prepared will give all involved peace of mind to ensure that, if needed, the correct decisions are made and information is known.”

To offer your residents and their families a guide to having a meaningful discussion, download “Let’s Talk.”


Sandra Hoban

Managing Editor

Sandra Hoban


Sandra Hoban has been on Long-Term Living’s editorial staff for 17 years. She is one of...