By Lynn Malkinson, retired hospice social worker and co-presenter at The Conversation Project Presentation “Discussing Your Legacy”
Forty-three people attended an educational talk about The Conversation Project last Thursday evening, January 29, at Congregation Nevei Kodesh. Constance Holden and I spoke about recent trends in end-of-life care. Constance is a registered nurse with 40 years of experience in health care. She was executive director of Boulder County Hospice, a member of its ethics committee and director of oncology at Boulder Community Hospital. Most recently, she co-founded The Conversation Project in Boulder County.
The presentation, jointly sponsored by Boulder Hadassah, Boulder Jewish Family Service, Nevei Kodesh, and the Boulder Jewish Community Center, was offered in response to an expressed interest in end-of-life options by members of these groups.
The Conversation Project in Boulder County began its work following Ellen Goodman’s presentation here in May 2013, aiming to further her message about the importance of family conversations about end-of-life. The organization emphasizes the value of making sure that what you consider quality of life is well understood by the people who, when the time comes, will help you achieve what is often called “a good death.” This involves more than putting things on paper in documents such as a living will. It offers advice so that these documents reflect your wishes and your values. For your families, this understanding is necessary, particularly if your documents list is specific about medical interventions that are not relevant to the actual situation.
The question and answer period was rich and varied. The impressions people went home with, I believe, were:
- That a conversation well ahead of a crisis while everyone is healthy may prevent discord at the time of death
- That every family is unique and will follow life-long patterns during this important transition
- That there’s always a chance of healing old wounds during this time
- That families experience real distress if they don’t know what you want
- That this discussion may mark the beginning of many family conversations and lead to new levels of individual reflection on this most personal time of life
For more information about The Conversation Project, visit www.theconversationprojectinboulder.org.