September 7

How Do You Start the End-of-Life Conversation?

How Do You Start the End-of-Life Conversation?

One of the biggest questions and concerns for clients seeking the services of an elder law attorney is allaying the fear that they cannot make medical decisions on their loved one’s behalf at a critical time. Documents such as an advance medical directive, a living will, a POLST, and others fill that void. The catch is that it is difficult to get their loved ones to sign those documents without having a very delicate conversation about end-of-life planning and what their wishes actually are. There is a great stigma attached to those conversations and there has been a lot of effort in recent years to find ways to open families up to starting a dialogue. I wanted to write briefly to highlight such an attempt, an event which is being held locally.

The event is called a “Death Cafe.” The longer description of the event is here, but I will sum it up. A Death Café is a setting (with food and in a comforting environment) with the explicit understanding that is a non-judgmental, supportive place to discuss death, dying, and end-of-life decisions. Having these discussions before a crisis allows people to make the most of the time they have left, and to maximize the quality of that time – outside of hospitals or nursing institutions, and at home with assistive technology within reach of loved ones. These events are held locally all over Europe and the United States, and there have been a series of them held right in Mercer County. The ones right here are moderated by a Quaker minister and a Jewish rabbi. In the interest of full disclosure the rabbi is a family member of a good friend of the firm, and that is primarily how we came to learn about it.

Death Cafe or similar events have great value in that they provide a forum for non-judgmental, open discussion of a very difficult topic. The benefits may not even be immediately apparent, but they will make a stressful time less so, and allow a family and a dying person the chance to start the grieving process in a more constructive, positive way. This event is being held tomorrow in East Windsor, but there will be additional events to come – and I will publicize them as I learn about them.

By the way, tip of the hat to Ann at Akin Care Home Health for bringing the link to my attention.

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