The Conversation Project
In 2012, in her encore career as a “recovering journalist” Ellen Goodman founded a nonprofit organization The Conversation Project, a public engagement campaign to ensure that people’s wishes for end of life care are expressed and respected.
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The Conversation Project has been a leader in raising public awareness about the importance of talking about how we want to live toward the end of life. As Ellen says, too many people die in a manner they would not choose and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty and uncertain about the choices made on their behalf. And she knows we can make this easier.
Ellen knows firsthand the difficulty of making healthcare choices for a loved one. She served as her mother’s caretaker, the “designated daughter,” for many years.
As Ellen tells the story, she and her mother were very close, and they talked about everything, except how she would have wanted to live out her final days. Ellen was faced with a cascading number of decisions to make, and throughout the process, she often wished she’d heard her mother’s voice in her ear.
Ellen’s experience is not unique. As she began sharing her personal story with friends and colleagues it seemed they all had a similar story to tell; they were either witnesses to a good death or a hard one. The difference was often whether they had shared their wishes.
At the heart of the project is the Conversation Starter Kit, a free, downloadable, step-by-step guide that helps people have “the conversation” about their preferences for end-of-life care. The Starter Kit is designed to be used by families, or by individuals, as a way to help them think about and communicate important end-of-life decisions, before a medical crisis.
Ellen has shared her message nationwide in workshops and lectures to a broad array of stakeholders including civic and volunteer organizations, health care systems, senior centers, libraries, houses of worship and employers. Her remarks encourage listeners to begin the conversation today because, as she says, “It’s always too soon until it’s too late.”