The Most Important Thanksgiving Conversation You Can Have

By ABC News

Nov 23, 2011 2:16pm

By DR. RONI ZEIGER

Once again, this Thanksgiving we are grateful to all the people who keep this mission alive day after day: to ensure that each and every one of us understands, communicates, and has honored their end-of-life wishes.

Seems almost more fitting than usual this year, the year of making change happen. 2011 gave us the Arab Spring, people on the ground using social media to organize a real political revolution. And now, love it or hate it, it’s the Occupy Wall Street movement that’s got people talking.

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This mission is driven by all the personal stories we’ve heard of people who’ve seen their loved ones suffer unnecessarily at the end of their lives.

It’s driven by that ripping-off-the-band-aid feeling of relief you get when you’ve finally broached the subject of end-of-life wishes with your family, free from the burden of not knowing what they’d want for themselves, and knowing you could advocate for these wishes if your loved one weren’t able to speak up for themselves.

And it’s driven by knowing that this is a conversation that needs to happen early, and often. One of the greatest gifts you can give the ones you love is making sure you’re all on the same page. In the words Atul Gawande, you only die once! Die the way you want. Make sure your loved ones get that same gift. And there is a way to engage in this topic with grace!

Here are the five questions, read them, consider them, answer them (you can securely save your answers at the Engage with Grace site), share your answers with your loved ones. It doesn’t matter what your answers are, it just matters that you know them for yourself, and for your loved ones. And they for you.

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We all know the power of a group that decides to assemble. In fact, we recently spent an amazing couple days with the members of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, or C-TAC, working together to channel so much of the extraordinary work that organizations are already doing to improve the quality of care for our country’s sickest and most vulnerable.

Noted journalist Eleanor Clift gave an amazing talk, finding a way to weave humor and joy into her telling of the story she shared in this Health affairs article. She elegantly sums up (as only she can) the reason that we have this blog rally every year:

“For too many physicians, that conversation is hard to have, and families, too, are reluctant to initiate a discussion about what Mom or Dad might want until they’re in a crisis, which isn’t the best time to make these kinds of decisions. Ideally, that conversation should begin at the kitchen table with family members, rather than in a doctor’s office.”

Make this conversation a part of your Thanksgiving weekend. There will be a right moment, you just might not realize how right it was until you begin the conversation.

This is a time to be inspired, informed — to tackle our challenges in real, substantive and scalable ways. Participating in this conversation is just one small, yet huge, way that we can each keep that fire burning in our bellies, long after the turkey dinner is gone.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season. Let’s Engage with Grace together.

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To learn more please go to www.engagewithgrace.org. This post was developed with the Engage With Grace team. Dr. Roni Zeiger is Chief Health Strategist at Google and a practicing physician. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rzeiger

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