Death is mostly perceived with skepticism. Most cultures skirt the topic of death and how some one wants live at the end of their lives. This makes the loved ones bereaved and uncertain about how they should care and support for the ones who are living their last days. The Conversation Project,an initiative by Boston Globe Columnist and author Ellen Goodman works to encourage people to talk about this difficult but important topic not at hospital beds but at their kitchen tables.So that the last days of someone’s lives are cherished and lived to the fullest as wished.
We spoke to Mandy Fergusson from the Conversation Project who shared the idea and work of this insightful project.
- Can you explain in details the concept of ‘The Conversation Project’?
The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. Too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain. We believe that it’s time to transform our culture so we shift from not talking about dying to talking about it. It’s time to share the way we want to live at the end of our lives. The Conversation Project believes that the place for this to begin is at the kitchen table—not in the intensive care unit—with the people we love, before it’s too late. Together we can make these difficult conversations easier. We can make sure that our own wishes and those of our loved ones are expressed and respected.
- How has it impacted others?
The Conversation Project has impacted individuals, families, and communities across the globe. We have given people the tools they need to get the conversation started with their loved ones and with their health care providers. We have provided a website for people to read news highlights from the project, download tools and resources free of charge, share their story, and follow us on social media. We have been featured in more than 300 news articles, both online and in print. We have created a community effort that is open to anyone who is interested in joining and spreading this work to their organization, community, or region. Since its launch in 2012, this project has blossomed in ways that we wouldn’t have expected. And touched thousands of people.
- Can you tell us any person whose life was greatly impacted by this project?
I think that the stories page on our website would be a good place to start for this! It gives testimonials and personal stories from people that have had experiences with a good death or a hard death. You may read them here.
- What inspired Ellen to start this wonderful initiative?
The idea for The Conversation Project came out of Ellen’s experience with the death of her mother. She always says that the two of them talked about everything—except for what she wanted for end-of-life care. When the end came, her mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia and couldn’t decide what she wanted for lunch, let alone healthcare. After her death, Ellen was left feeling guilty and uncertain about whether or not she respected her mother’s wishes. It was from this experience that she came up with the idea to found The Conversation Project.
- What has been the biggest learning in the journey of ‘the conversation Project’.
I think the most poignant thing for us is that everyone has a story. No matter what gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc., everyone has a story about this and that’s why we are so dedicated to changing the culture from not talking about it, to talking about it