Training for End-Of-Life Conversations Sparks Interest from Around Florida

mother and daughter for conversation readyThe young woman standing to speak at a recent seminar on cultivating end-of-life conversations confessed she had been pressing her father—who has a serious illness—to keep fighting. She desperately wanted him to have a chance to get to know her young son.

But after sitting in the seminar and learning about The Conversation Project, a campaign underway in Central Florida and around the country to assure everyone’s wishes for end-of-life care are expressed and respected, she said she knew she needed to do a better job of listening to the desires of her dad, and respect them.

She realized this was not about her—it was about her dad.

The young woman was one of more than 140 people from around Florida and all walks of life participating in training to learn how to advocate for, and facilitate discussions about wishes for end-of-life care. The one-day event was held at Trinity Reception Center in Maitland, and it is part of The Conversation Project in Central Florida supported by a one-year, $85,030 grant to the National Gerontological Nurses Association. It is being administered by its Orlando-based chapter.

Kate DeBartolo, National Field Manager of The Conversation Project, provided the curriculum which is used to train volunteer champions and coaches who will now implement the program within their Central Florida settings.

The Conversation Project is a national public engagement campaign dedicated to assure that everyone’s wishes for end-of-life care are expressed and respected. Since launched in 2010, approximately 215 organizations in 40 states have embraced The Conversation Project’s goal of normalizing discussions about end of life wishes so that loved ones are not left feeling bereaved, guilty and uncertain. According to The Conversation Project’s Co-Founder & Director Ellen Goodman, “The Conversation Project emphasizes having a conversation on values — what matters to you, not what‘s the matter with you.”

The WPHF grant-funded program is designed to encourage individuals and families to not only talk about their wishes for end-of-life care, but to put them in writing and share them with others, including their health care providers.

The grant will be used to train champions who serve as advocates and are available to speak to interested groups and individuals about the benefits of advance care planning. To request a speaker, please go to the website for the local Conversation Ready project. The website also includes other resources to assist individuals and organizations interested in learning more about how to bring The Conversation Project in Central Florida to people where they live, work, play and pray.

“Ideally, people will have these conversations when they are healthy and not in the throes of critical illness,” said Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director for Older Adults. “If we can begin normalizing these discussions, people may begin to feel comfortable revisiting them as they enter different stages in their life when perhaps, their wishes have changed.”

The one-year project will conclude November 30, 2015.

To read more about the event, view this column by Orlando Sentinel reporter Darryl Owens.