The Conversation: A Family's Private Decision

Talking to loved ones near the end of life.
3:00 | 10/09/12

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Transcript for The Conversation: A Family's Private Decision
And finally tonight, abc news wants to join you in something right at the heart of the american family. How we can all help the people who care about us make decisions near the end of our lives and nine out of ten of you have told us that we should all be talking about it at all ages, what we want and yet only a fraction of us have done it and we know it makes a huge difference in the health of the caregiver as well as those cared for. So abc news has taken cameras inside a vital loving family as part of a new community deciding to have "the conversation." This is 85-year-old norb and his daughter maureen. My dad is 85 today. He's still very, very active. He's a great storyteller, and he's a wonderful friend. Reporter: Throughout life, daughter and father have always talked about everything except one thing. How to control the end of your life in the same way you control the prime of your life. So dad and daughter gather the family together, three generations for an act of love. And so now we're just asking that you share some of your thoughts about what you would like at the end of your life, so that we can honor your wishes. Reporter: They are part of something new under way for families in america that says having the conversation is a gift parents and children give each other. And there's proof of the difference it makes. Studies show depression rates plummet after a loss if the families have had the conversation. Renowned physician, dr. Atul gawande, says doctors and nurses see it firsthand. When you're there in that moment, and you're talking to the family and you're saying, how much will it bother your father if he ends up this way, and they say more often than not, I don't know, we never talked about it. That -- it is incredibly traumatic for the family, for the doctors involved. There's often conflict. It can tear families apart. become part of a team, led by pulitzer prize winning writer, ellen goodman. It is called the conversation project. It is a kind of guide for families looking for a way to begin. If we give them a way to talk about it and give people something to hang on to when they're afraid to start this conversation, they can do it and pass it on. Reporter: Families, like the jennings, they looked over the conversation guide before they sat down together. First, there is laughter. My golf swing's still good. Reporter: And then dad directly eases his daughter's guilt and worry about having put their mother in hospice. I felt like that meant we were giving up on mom. She was in a lot of pain. And I think it was handled real well. Reporter: And next, maureen asks her dad for clarity on what he considers a good end to a great life. So if you were in a condition where you couldn't make decisions for yourself, how extreme would you want us to take measures to save your life versus letting you go? Well, I think I'm ready to go any time. You know, I wouldn't prolong anything. I mean, I've lived a great life. Really. I'm pretty lucky, and it's because of you guys. Reporter: Unexpectedly, a grandson is inspired to speak up about his own wishes. For his own life. That if there was no meaningful communication, that i would want you to stop trying to intervene. We're not ready for you to go yet. Well, we're not ready for you Reporter: One by one, the others weigh in, all ages. ♪ Happy birthday dear grandpa ♪ Reporter: And with that, estate planning for the heart. The conversation beginning in america. So please tell us your stories in the days ahead about ways to begin the conversation with family members of all ages or if you don't want to have it, tell us about that too. My colleague and my friend, anchor bill ritter from wabc and I willing reading your e-mails and looking at the great photos you're already sending of your families. Go to abcnews.Com for the conversation and the guide and we'll see you right there.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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