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Looking to the Future — Signs of Culture Change Surrounding Dying Care

shutterstock_187897427 [1]Here’s a list offered by The Conversation Project that’s significant because it is broadcasting out there that we are working our way toward living life to its end the way we want to. But first, a statement from this great organization:

“This is not your average Buzzfeed list. No celebrities below. But nevertheless a few hats and horns are warranted because 2014 was the year when Americans finally began breaking the code of silence about end-of-life conversations. When The Conversation Project was founded, the media was full of static about “death Panels.” It was still taboo to talk about how we wanted to live at the end of life — the care we wanted, the care we didn’t want. We and many others believed it was the most important conversation America wasn’t having. It was important to change the culture, to change the cultural norm, that is, from not talking about dying to talking about it. Now, with a small ta-da, we say things are truly changing. We herby offer the Top Ten Signs of Culture Change in 2014.”

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Top 10 Signs of Culture Change in 2014

  1. The Institute of Medicine releases its report, “Dying in America,” that pushes the importance of honoring preferences on the public agenda.
  2. Atule Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal” on aging and end of life rises to bet seller list and stays there.
  3. The Conversation Project logs its 250,000 website visitor and The Conversation Starter Kit spreads from there to AARP, United Health Care, and even Consumer reports.
  4. “The Fault in Our Stars” proves that yes, you can so do a movie about dying and earns a stunning $48.2 million the first weekend.
  5. Massachusetts rules that doctors must have conversations about advance planning with terminally ill patients.
  6. More than 140 organizations in 35 states join The Conversation Project’s grassroots initiative to make their communities Conversation Ready.
  7. Roz Chast’s cartoon book asking the provocative and humorous question “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is named one of the Tip Ten Books of the year by the New York Times.
  8. Brittany Maynard’s illness and death provokes a national debate.
  9. The Writers Guilds East and West invite The Conversation Project and UCLA’s Global Media Center for Social Impact to engage screenwriters for scripts to “Die Well or Die Trying.”
  10. The American Medical Association recommends reimbursement to doctors for holding conversations.

shutterstock_172671014 [3]And I have to mention “Death over Dinner,” that’s all about change beginning at the dinner table. Check it out at wwwdeathoverdinner.org. This organization is using the dinner table to revolutionize how we discuss death.

A friend and I have and are planning dinners in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. I have to tell you that these dinners are not morbid, but empowering and challenging for those who attend. Please join us by having one as well to tell a story, have a conversation, and change the culture.

Each of us can lead by example and help each other create a most personal end-of-life journey and in this way, as The Conversation Project states, break the code of silence around end-of-life conversations. Happy New Year!

Note: The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. The Project began 2010 when Ellen Goodman (co-Founder and Director) and a group of colleagues, clergy, medical professionals, and concerned media got together to share personal stories of “good deaths” and “bad deaths.”