Let's Have Dinner and Talk About Death

How do your family dinners usually go?  Does one person dominate the conversation while the others sit and chew?  Are your kids chatty, eagerly sharing details of school days and soccer practice?  Hopefully you have the kind of family where meals are jovial affairs, serving to catch up with one another amidst busy schedules.

My household currently consists of just my husband and I so family dinners are more like date nights.  Lots of chatter, new-recipe critiquing and keeping up to date with each other's bustling lives.  I like it that way.  I wonder, though, would the tone of our usually lighthearted meals change if we discussed the topic of the 'Let's Have Dinner and Talk About Death Project', a new social movement originating from the University of Washington?

Death is a sticky subject.  It elicits raw emotion, everything from deep regret to fear and even sometimes joy.  To talk about death, you have to be present in the realization that yes, it will happen to you and everyone in your family.  It's much easier to just avoid the subject rather than address last wishes.  The 'Let's Have Dinner and Talk About Death Project' encourages families and loved ones to embrace this difficult but important discussion.

Alarmed by the fact that 70 percent of Americans say they prefer to die at home while only 30 percent of Americans actually do, Michael Hebb and Scott Macklin, teaching fellow and associate director of the University of Washington's Master of Communication in Digital Media program decided to shed light on the issue.  Through their project, Hebb and Macklin foster proactive and constructive conversations about death facilitated by their website.

We need to get more comfortable talking about death.  It's an inevitable part of life.  As nurse practitioners, we are in a unique position to promote these conversations.  By discussing death freely with our families and patients, we insure individual's basic wishes are fulfilled.  Through allowing individuals to die in a less medicalized manner, we acknowledge the desires of most Americans all while potentially saving the millions of Medicare dollars spent on end-of-life care.  

The full 'Let's Have Dinner and Talk About Death' project website launches this summer.  Keep checking for interactive online discussion as well as resources for fostering end-of-life discussion with your family, patients and loved ones.