Let’s have dinner and talk about death

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The Baltimore Sun-  It isn’t what she imagined for what Baby Boomers like to call “a post-career career.” But Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman finds herself talking to people about dying. Specifically, about dying the way they want to die.

She began The Conversation Project after her own mother’s death at 92. They had never had this conversation and, with her mother suffering from dementia, they couldn’t have it. She found herself making difficult decisions about her mother’s care without any idea what her mother might have wanted.

“We had talked about everything but this one thing,” said Ms. Goodman, “and that is how she wanted to live at the end of her life.

“I never want to leave the people I love that uneasy and bewildered about my own wishes,” said the former Boston Globe writer.

From today through Jan. 7, The Conversation Project, in cooperation with Death Over Dinner, which also encourages these conversations, is urging people to pick an evening soon to “fill their tables with comfort food, family and friends and start talking about how they want to live the last days of their lives.”

Read the full article here.

Chew on this: death & dinner

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U-T San Diego- Pass the peas and the awkward silences, please.

On the menu the first week of 2015 for thousands of American families is the tricky — some would say distasteful — topic of end-of-life care.

A national campaign to break bread and cultural taboos is urging people to put on the table their wishes for living out their final days with so-called Death Over Dinner gatherings from today through Jan. 7.

In between finalizing their guest lists and entrée recipes, dinner hosts can download a Conversational Starter Kit from deathoverdinner.org to help uncork such food-for-thought nuggets as: Do you want to live as long as possible, no matter what, or is quality of life more important than quantity? Where do you want to receive end-of-life care, at home, at a nursing facility or a hospital? And what kinds of aggressive treatment would you want, or not want, such as resuscitation if your heart stops, breathing machines or feeding tubes?

More often than not, experts say, families confront these questions when it’s too late, not in the comfort of their homes, but in hospital emergency rooms, ICUs and even courtrooms.

Read the full article here.

‘Death over dinner’ event in Boulder encourages end-of-life decision conversations

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The Daily Camera-  Connie Holden hosted a dinner party Sunday in Boulder to encourage her friends to talk about death.

Holden, the co-founder of Boulder County’s chapter of the Conversation Project, has worked as a nurse, an ethics consultant who helped families with end of life decisions and the director of Hospice of Boulder County.

The Conversation Project in Boulder County started in 2013 and is based on the work of “Boston Globe” columnist Ellen Goodman.

“One of the points that Ellen Goodman makes is that these are conversations people should be having around the kitchen table, not at the bedside in the intensive care unit,” Holden said.

Nationally, the Conversation Project encouraged chapters to host “death over dinner” events this week to increase awareness about the project. At Holden’s dinner in Boulder, the 10 people who attended talked about loved ones they lost and shared their thoughts on end-of-life decisions

Read the full article here.


Death over Breakfast

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President of Teak Media, Jackie Herskovitz Russell, wrote an inspiring blog post about having “the conversation” with her family the morning after Thanksgiving.

It started with the requisite joke made by my Dad. “Bury me at Bloomingdale’s,” he said. “That way I know my daughters will visit me.”

Thanks for making it convenient for us, Dad! We appreciate your consideration.

If only end of life planning was that easy. But because it’s not, and there are many details to be worked out and agreed upon while all parties involved are still alive and lucid, my family took the morning after Thanksgiving to “have the conversation.”

Read the full blog post on the Teak website here. 

Death Over Dinner Press Release

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Top Chefs Help Break Bread & Taboos

Dining and Discussing Death in the New Year 

Seven Days, Two Organizations and One Conversation: A Movement to Encourage Meaningful Conversations about End-of-Life Care. Jan. 1-7

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. & SEATTLE, Wash. | Death as dinner conversation? You bet. Death Over Dinner and The Conversation Project are teaming up for a second consecutive year to launch a nationwide movement to encourage Americans to throw the most important dinner parties they’ll ever have.

The two likeminded public engagement campaigns, both of which educate people on the value of making decisions about their wishes for end-of-life care and expressing them to their loved ones, are inspiring a series of uplifting and interactive dinners to transform the seemingly difficult conversation about death into an intimate, shared experience.

During the week of Jan. 1 – 7, 2015 Seven Days, Two Organizations and One Conversation (#721) will encourage Americans to pick a date on which to fill their tables with comfort food, family, and friends and start talking about how they want to live the last days of their lives.

Both organizations believe that conversations about end-of-life care shouldn’t start with doctors, insurance agents, or in intensive care units when people are overwhelmed; they should start with family and friends while breaking bread. #721 provides the tools and tips to get the conversation started. Dinner party hosts choose the guests and the menu and let the wine and conversations flow.

To whet the appetite for the conversation, this year’s side dish is an ecookbook, “The Endless Table,” recipes from departed loved ones, available for download just in time for the holidays. Famous foodies like Tom Colicchio, Ina Garten, Ben Ford, Jasper White, Jody Adams, José Andrés, Roger Berkowitz, Michel Nischan and many more have donated recipes in honor of loved ones, along with stories about why the dish they chose is personally meaningful. The book will be available January 2015 for a nominal donation of $15, which will benefit both public engagement campaigns, The Conversation Project and Death Over Dinner.

“Memories and menus are bound together in our emotional makeup — whether it’s the hot dog at Fenway Park or the iconic turkey at Thanksgiving — we associate food with the people we love and those we have lost,” says Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist and founder of The Conversation Project. “We hope people will celebrate life while talking about death. We know one conversation can make all the difference and good food and wine can make any topic more palatable.”

Materials provided by #721 include The Conversation’s Project’s Starter Kit, a step-by-step guide developed to help people have “the conversation” about their preferences for end of life care.  The guide 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. From how much information the doctor should share with the family, to which family member is to be the primary decision maker, the starter kit helps people think about situations and how they might address them.

“We hope those who join 721’s national dinner party remember their loved ones who have cooked for them by singing their praises and sharing their wisdom,” says Michael Hebb, founder of Death Over Dinner.  “Let’s all have this conversation and delve deeply into what it means to feast together. And, let’s live lives that people will celebrate after we have gone.”

Death Over Dinner works to bring people to the dinner table to create social change with the idea that dinners result in action and create deep engagement and profound relationships with participants. To date, Death Over Dinner has been the impetus for thousands of dinners held across the nation and abroad.

Last year more than 1,500 #721 dinners were held throughout the U.S. and the campaign drove more than 20,000 people to the organizations’ websites where they registered to host dinners and downloaded The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit.

Ninety percent of Americans say it’s important to talk about their end-of-life care wishes, yet 30 percent of people actually have that conversation. #721 is committed to changing our national culture from not talking about end-of-life care to talking about it – in thousands of kitchens, living rooms, coffee shops and restaurants across the country. For more information about #721, visit deathoverdinner.org or theconversationproject.org.

About The Conversation Project

The Conversation Project, co-founded by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellen Goodman, launched in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI,) and supported by Cambia Health Foundation, is a public engagement campaign with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to have every person’s end-of-life wishes expressed and respected. 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. The Conversation Project offers people the tools, guidance, and resources they need to process their final desires for their life and begin talking with their loved ones, in a comfortable setting, about their wishes and preferences. Have you had The Conversation? Learn more at: www.theconversationproject.org.

About Death Over Dinner

Deathoverdinner.org is an interactive website and cultural movement dedicated to giving people the permission and the tools to powerfully discuss end of life with their friends and loved ones. Created by Michael Hebb and developed at the University Of Washington Masters Of Communication Department in collaboration with interactive firm CIVILIZATION, Deathoverdinner.org has already inspired over 40,000 people to break bread and explore the many aspects of mortality, ageing, and the choices we face at the end of our lives.

2015 721 Press Release

Life and Death Matters

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In April this year my Dad passed away. I have been putting together a jigsaw puzzle since then and
now realize that so many people are in the same boat and many wouldn’t even know.
I have a simple idea that will save a lot of grief and heartache; a publication where your own
important details and wishes are enclosed and stored safely until required.
This planner and guide gives those left behind the answers they will initially need and after the event.

It’s not until you have experienced the loss of a loved one that you understand how important these details are.
What can be considered trivial at the time holds a lot of value when a family or individual are going through the grieving process.
This planner is much more than meets the eye. It is a personal informative guide that includes funeral, estate,
personal and medical information. I have had a goal to help people through the most difficult time of all by
preparing for something that we all have to face at one time or another.