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The gift of conversation in and before hospice

The gift of conversation in hospice

Whether or not you had an actual conversation with your loved one about their end-of-life wishes, here you are: a hospice caregiver. You probably never expected this job, and whether it is a joy, a duty, or a heart-wrenching, difficult task—or all three—it is probably a tad easier if you know that the hospice patient you care for chose this path.

The Conversation Project is a website, an on-line community, and an invaluable tool to help families have the sometimes uncomfortable discussion about their end-of-life wishes. Ideally, this conversation happens when everyone is well and not during a medical crisis. But realistically, even when all is well, no one really wants to talk about death or serious incapacitation. We don’t want to acknowledge that one day all of us will die, or become frail, or lose our independence. We don’t want to talk about money, or alternate living arrangements, or being dependent upon others. And we especially don’t want to talk about it with family—it’s so much easier to be abstract with friends at a party than with people we care about the most.

As a hospice caregiver, it might be easier for you to talk about; after all, you can always start with “I wish ______ had told me what she wanted. Every decision is hard for me now because we didn’t talk about end-of-life wishes. I don’t want you to have that same burden.” Or, conversely, “________ made things so much easier for me by talking about her wishes, even when I didn’t want to hear it, so I’m going to give you the gift that she gave me and be up front about it.”

The Conversation Project provides tools to help you decide what it really is that you want, and conversation starters to get the ball rolling. For the most introverted of us, you can mail or email The Gift of Conversation, a step-by-step plan to ease you into deciding what you want and how to talk about it. Sending The Gift seems a bit easier than starting the conversation face-to-face or over the telephone.

There are forms to fill out and documentation necessary to allow doctors and healthcare professionals permission to follow your wishes, and these are included in Caring with Confidence’s Useful Tools section.

If you have more ideas about how to start the conversation, or a story to share about how talking about end-of-life care made a difference, share it in the comments section. We’d love to hear, and you’ll be helping other caregivers, including the caregivers of tomorrow.

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