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Starting the Dialogue with Your Aging Parents: A Mealtime Conversation

December 2, 2013

Today’s blog post is from an e-mail I received on Thanksgiving Day. It is a little late to do this in time for Thanksgiving, but timing doesn’t matter. This conversation can be held at any time, but with Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s looming here in the United States there are plenty of holiday opportunities still available.

HealthBlawg :: David Harlow’s Health Care Law Blog – Engage With Grace: Thanksgivukkah Edition


This Thanksgiving, HealthBlawg is once again participating in the annual Engage With Grace blog rally,encouraging those who haven’t considered their end-of-life preferences to start thinking about them, and asking those who have done it to consider how their decisions may have changed over time. It’s good food for thought.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy holiday season.

Most of us find ourselves pretty fascinating… flipping through photos and slowing down for the ones where we’re included, tweeting our favorite tidbits of information, Facebooking progress on this or that…

We find other people captivating as well. In fact, there’s a meme going around on Facebook where people share a handful of things that most people don’t know about them – and there’s a great joy in learning these tidbits about the friends and family we think we know so well.

This Thanksgiving, we’re asking our friends and family to try this exercise, but with a twist – we want to know how they’d answer just five questions on their end-of-life preferences.

What? Are you CRAZY? Talk about how you’d want to die over Thanksgiving?  Yup – that’s exactly what we’re suggesting.   You know why?  Because this is a conversation you absolutely want to have exactly when you DON’T need to have it… and it’s a conversation you need to have with your loved ones.   Our hope for you this Thanksgiving is that you’ll have the luxury of checking both those boxes.

As humans, we’re all pretty fascinating, and exploring what matters to each of us under different circumstances can be a captivating conversation…and captivating conversations are part of what turkey dinners are all about.  It’s also a vital one – there will be few times in our lives where ‘getting it right’ is more important than at the end of them.

There are also few greater gifts you can give to your loved ones, and they to you, than making sure these lives we are living with such ferocious intent have the luxury of ending the same way.

Engage with Grace is a way to help get the conversation about end of life started – a way to Engage in this topic with Grace.  Just five simple questions about our end of life preferences that we can all commit to being able to answer – for ourselves, for our loved ones.  Take a quick look – do you know how you would answer?  Could you answer for your loved ones?   There is no wrong answer – It’s only wrong if you don’t know your answers … or if you haven’t shared them.

Coming together over the dinner table to talk about the important stuff is part of our DNA…and it’s where so much of the good stuff happens.  We connect, we share, we learn, we laugh, we fall in love, out of love, we fight and make up, we celebrate, we (maybe even) cry.  If this Thanksgiving turns out not to be your thing, then pick another dinner.  Check out the genius Death over Dinner movement started by our dear friend Michael Hebb to help make that happen.  Thousands of dinners happening across the country – from cool hipsters to the very dearest grandparents coming together to think hard, eat well, and make sure we nail this end of life thing by making sure we’re talking about it.  We double dog dare you to have a Death Dinner – and not enjoy it.

Know what else?  What we want at the end of our lives often changes as we go through them… a mum of toddlers may find she’d opt for more intensive treatment options, while a great-grandfather may feel more comfortable choosing quality of life related treatment… so have this conversation once, then keep having it.

None of us are planning for anything less than living forever – so until one of us is smart enough to make that happen (go Google!) – let’s at least commit to this: we live our life with intent – we can end our life with that same honor.  70% of us want to die at home, only 30% of us do.  Each of us will only die once – make sure you get to die the way you want. Then make sure that’s a gift you give to your loved ones as well.

Just five questions.  Just get started.

Could there be a more important conversation to have this Thanksgiving? Nope. Maybe that’s why they call it talkin’ turkey.

Thanks to Alexandra Drane, Matthew Holt, Leigh Calabrese-Eck and the rest of the Engage With Grace team for promoting this idea and writing this post.

Do you have a story to share about how you had this conversation with your aging parents or elderly loved one? Please feel free to share it in the comments section. I’d love to hear and share it.



One Comment leave one →
  1. December 4, 2013 10:59 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Engage with Grace is an amazing organization 🙂

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