HealthCare Decisions Day: Start the Conversation [VIDEO]

6 Mins read

In homage to Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “Nothing in this life is certain except for death and taxes,” National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) will take place Tuesday, April 16th, the day after “tax” day. NHDD is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations and has for its mission to ensure that all adults have the information necessary to make their healthcare decisions.


In homage to Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “Nothing in this life is certain except for death and taxes,” National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) will take place Tuesday, April 16th, the day after “tax” day. NHDD is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations and has for its mission to ensure that all adults have the information necessary to make their healthcare decisions.


The Conversation Project is a public engagement campaign to have every person’s end-of-life wishes expressed and respected. The Conversation Project website offers information, tools, resources and guidance to help people begin talking with their loved ones. The Conversation Project does not promote any specific preference, but rather encourages people to speak up and express their own personal wishes.

Taken from a recent press release from the Conversation Project:

To prepare for having the conversation around end-of-life care and preparing an advanced directive, consider asking the following questions:

  • Would you prefer to be actively involved in decisions about your care?
  • Or would you rather have your doctors do what they think is best?
  • Where do you want (or not want) to receive care?
  • What kinds of aggressive treatment would you want (or not want)?
  • Are your finances in order?
  • Do you have a health care proxy?
  • Have you created a living will?”

“The Conversation Project is thrilled to be a part of National Healthcare Decisions Day,” said Ellen Goodman co-founder of The Conversation Project. “This is an excellent opportunity to educate the community on a national level and help people prepare for end-of-life from a financial point of view. In light of tax day, there is no better time than now for friends and family to join in the conversation and encourage others to discuss their wishes for end-of-life care.”

In this video interview, Martha Hayward, Lead for Public and Patient Engagement at The Institute for HealthCare Improvement, talks about HealthCare Decisions Day and The Conversation Project:

 Video Transcript (by TranscriptionStar)

Joan Justice:  Hello I’m Joan Justice with HealthWorks Collective and I’m here today with Martha Hayward, Lead for Public and Patient Engagement at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  April 16th is Healthcare Decisions Day and I’ve invited Martha here to talk about end of life decisions and how important they really are.  Martha has a background in healthcare marketing and patient advocacy and is a cancer survivor.  She is working with the Conversation Project, a public engagement campaign to get conversations about end of life out into the open.  The Conversation Project website offers support, information, tools and tips about engaging in the important conversation about end of life.  Martha, why don’t you tell us a bit about the Conversation Project, how you got started with it and what the mission is?


Martha Hayward:  Well I guess I’ll reflect on the fact that we’re doing this in honor of Healthcare Decisions Day and we need to reflect on the fact that nothing in life is certain but what? Taxes and death.


Joan Justice:  Right.


Martha Hayward:  And somehow we’d really like to avoid those two things and I think in America we really like to avoid the idea that death really is a certainty.  We’ve done our research and we know that 100 percent of us will die.


June Justice:  And there’s a statistic.


Martha Hayward:  Yes that’s our…  We are a research organization.  But you know this really, the Conversation Project is a project brought together by people who had experienced the deaths of their sisters, mothers, brothers and realized that we are a society right now that does not in any way prepare.  We do not prepare ourselves for the inevitable.  We’re never prepared to pay our taxes are we? Although we know that April 15th is coming up.  But really, we’re not prepared to really face what it is that death, the inevitability of death and the world that we live in right now we’ve medicalized death.  And death is not a medical condition.  It is, it’s a natural part o life and we tend to think of death as always happening in a medical institution and yet we know that 70 percent of people who respond to a survey say that they want to die at home and have the option of doing that.  And now we’re creating other environments where it’s appropriate and comforting, it’s safe to die, it involves the family, but not all of us know about those options.  And so the goal is of the Conversation Project is to have all peoples’ end of life wishes expressed and then respected.  And so there’s a big part of that that means in order for people to express their wishes they need to know what the options are; what’s available, what kinds of environments, what can I do to have a good death.  So that’s really the beginning of it.  Alan Goodman who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist from the Boston Globe who has sort of chronicled social change over the past 40 years brought this project to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and in my role as public and patient engagement I just seized the opportunity to work with this group of people.  Again this is not a group of doctors or researchers, this is a group of people who want to make the experience of death, want to return it to our own hands and make the experience of death a natural part of life and a good part of life. 


Joan Justice:  Yeah, I completely, completely agree.  Martha I think the big question is, why are so many people afraid to talk about death including the healthcare professionals?


Martha Hayward:  Well that’s a great question and just in those two parts; why are people afraid? I think that and I’ve learned this from somebody who actually went onto the website of the Conversation Project and shared a story.  And in her story she spoke about, she was exhorting others and saying talking about end of life does not mean you’ve given up hope.  It only means that you’re respecting and acknowledging that end of life is coming.  And I think that we have a real fear that if we talk about death it may happen, but I’ve also learned that whether we talk about it or not, it’s going to happen.  And it just is, it’s a funny thing to me because we are a society of people who have learned and continue to learn over time to take control in our lives.  We take control of our weight, our health our you know, what we’re learning.  We like to have some form of control.  And yet around this one thing, we choose to put the blinders on and I think it is a societal peace that we have medicalized the, this natural process.  It’s very interesting when you say you know, how do we get doctors to talk about this process because we need to have all people express their wishes.  But we also recognize that we need those, we need to create a world where if people, when people there are two places that those two groups that need to respect those wishes and one is family and friends and the other is the medical world.  And what we’ve learned is that it’s really very difficult to go into this conversation with people if you haven’t had the conversation yourself or if you really haven’t engaged with the idea of your own end of life.  And so we’re working with some pioneers in the medical field, ten institutions across America where we’re testing out ways to make hospitals, healthcare settings, private care practices conversation ready.


Joan Justice:  Oh you are.  Great.


Martha Hayward: Yep which is really exciting because it doesn’t, both sides have to work.


Joan Justice:  Yes, absolutely, absolutely, you have to engage the medical profession too.  Well thank you so much Martha and for our readers, end of life conversations are so important.  And too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose.  So go to the website and look at the Conversation Project.  It really can help you.  Thanks so much Martha.


Martha Hayward:  Excellent. 


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