Have You Had The Conversation?

By VNA of the Treasure Coast

If you had to make a healthcare decision for a seriously-ill loved one, would you be prepared to do so? Could you tell a doctor, decisively, how much information to share with your loved one about her/his condition? Would you know whether or not your loved one wanted aggressive care to prolong her/his life? Consider the following fact: There is a clear contrast between our desire to discuss end-of life care and our willingness to actually do so. In fact, 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, but only 27% have actually done so. While 80% of people say that if seriously ill, they would want to talk to their doctor about end-of-life care, but only 7% report having had an end-of-life conversation with their doctor.

Fortunately, there is a straightforward solution to this disconnect — a simple plan exists to help facilitate such conversations in your community through a grassroots effort called The Conversation Project. An initiative started in 2010 by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ellen Goodman and a group of concerned colleagues who wanted to share stories of “good deaths” and “bad deaths” within their own circle of loved ones, The Conversation Project has now spread throughout communities across the United States, encouraging people at all stages of life to begin thinking about end-of-life conversations. At the core of the concept is a “Conversation Starter Kit” to help people think through their desires for end-of-life care, put those thoughts in writing and make their wishes known to family, friends and healthcare providers.

VNA Conversations

VNA of the Treasure Coast, located in Indian River County, forged a plan to implement the grassroots effort in their own community this past March. The Conversation Project in Indian River County launched during spring 2015. Collaboration with community partners was vitally important to reach the diverse population making up the county. Fortunately, the VNA received positive feedback and letters of support from many community organizations, and in March of 2015, the organization held a Conversation Project kickoff meeting, which was attended by forty local health and human service providers and community advocates the VNA hopes will champion the cause.

The idea for bringing The Conversation Project to Indian River County came from VNA President & CEO Mary Linn Hamilton, who has seen the project work successfully in other states. “Having caring, open, compassionate discussions about end-of-life issues is the key to ensuring your wishes are honored,” said Mary Linn, “but starting those conversations can be very difficult. We’re dedicated to helping our friends and neighbors begin their own conversations so they can make their wishes known.”

Advanced directives are not only for those who are close to receiving end-of-life care. Children, parents, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands of all ages should have an idea of the care they would like to receive at the end of their life, expected or not. Ideally, everyone should be able to rest assured that someone close to them is aware of their wishes when the time to make end-of-life decisions comes. Have you had a conversation with those closest to you about your end-of-life wishes? If not, what is stopping you? For more tips and more information on how to begin end-of-life conversations with your loved ones, contact your local hospice organization.


The VNA was founded over thirty-five years ago with the distinct mission of fulfilling the need to provide homecare for local residents of Indian River County.

Visit them online at www.vnatc.com