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Tackling challenges to initiating conversations (Part I): 5 resources to help ease the discomfort and help you start

By Patty Webster, 08/15/2018

Tackling challenges to initiating conversations

Let’s face it, talking about our wishes or asking a loved one about their wishes for end-of-life care can feel daunting. If you or someone you know in your community has trouble initiating end-of-life conversations, you certainly are not alone!  The good news – we’ve come a long way in the past several years to break down the taboos and barriers to having these important conversations. One of the significant roadblocks to starting these conversations has been the belief that it would make our loved ones anxious. But, according to a national survey by The Conversation Project (TCP) released in April 2018, for the first time, more than half (53%) of Americans now say they would feel relieved if a loved one started “the Conversation,” (click here for more details on this survey).

Discomfort and not knowing how to start

So what’s still holding us back? Discomfort is the primary reason, cited by nearly one-quarter (24%) of Americans in our national survey. We’re hearing the same thing from hundreds of community groups as well. TCP has been working to address these barriers and has several resources and ideas to help!

Five resources and clever community ideas to help you take the plunge:

  1. We take the old saying “laughter is the best medicine” to heart and offer up a lighter way to help approach this topic. Watch our “Practice Makes Perfect” video found here: watch together with your family or show it at a community event to help jump start the conversation.
  2. Our Conversation Starter Kit has some great icebreakers to help get you started (see sidebar).
  3. One of TCP’s community groups hands out fortune cookies with provocative, prompting questions inside to help jump start the conversation at their community events – such a clever way to break the ice! Check out this blog to give you more icebreakers to try.
  4. At events he hosts in his community, another TCP community member shows the TCP’s proxy video (found here) and then this poignant letter written by one of our colleagues to her family, to help guide individuals through a 2-step process of picking a proxy and then finding out what really matters to them via conversation.
  5. Another TCP community member keeps it light and humorous by hosting a “Grievers and Groovers” advanced planning virtual discussion group on Facebook – infusing humor and pop culture though social media.
  6. Language barriers have also held some back to initiating conversations with loved ones or community members. Some communities are tackling this head on by working with bi-lingual speakers who can introduce this message to non-English speaking audiences. We also have numerous language translations of our starter kits to help. And, our proxy video (above) also has Spanish subtitles (more to come soon)!

Remember, this is not just one conversation, it’s conversations that can take place anytime, anywhere and often. Try breaking this into smaller conversations and, don’t worry, sometimes it takes a little while to get the full picture painted for your loved ones!  You get the idea, there is no one way, no one right way, but just remember…it’s always too soon, until it’s too late.

What are you hearing or doing?

We know there are many more fabulous examples out there – please share yours here in the comments section! Tell us how you or others are jump starting these conversations. What lessons can you share with others to ease the discomfort and normalize these important conversations?

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