USA Today: Talking about serious illness and death is hard. That’s why so few people do it. But it’s important. That’s why there’s a growing movement to get more of these conversations going among families and friends – and to help more people get control over the kind of medical care they want at the end of their lives.
The latest effort, launched Friday, is a website called Prepare(www.prepareforyourcare.org). It’s designed by academic researchers, but is written at a fifth-grade level and features large type, voice-overs and how-to-videos with closed captioning – the better to reach a wide audience and help simplify what can seem like a daunting process, says project leader Rebecca Sudore, a geriatrician at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and associate professor at the University of California-San Francisco. Several foundations provided funding for the project.
Prepare joins the Conversation Project, an effort led by veteran Boston journalist Ellen Goodman and launched in August with backing from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Goodman says 60,000 people have visited www.theconversationproject.org, and 40% of them have downloaded a conversation-starter kit. Meanwhile, other projects are reaching out to specific groups, including African Americans, seriously ill teens, people with developmental disabilities and families facing Alzheimer’s disease.
The shared aim: to get all sorts of people thinking and talking about the medical care they would want if a time comes when they can’t speak for themselves – something that frequently happens near the end of life or when people are seriously injured or ill. At those times, other people must make choices that can extend or shorten lives, ease or heighten suffering. It’s much easier, experts say, when decision-makers know what patients might choose for themselves.