By Christine Moffa, MS, RN, AJN clinical editor
When I was growing up, my family spent Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother’s house. She was a star in the kitchen, with cooking and baking skills beyond compare. However, while she made a chocolate cream pie to kill for, her knack for turning every conversation into a newsfeed of various neighbors’ illnesses, symptoms, and near-death experiences, if not actual deaths, stood out more. She did this so much that my brother began referring to her as Grandma Kevorkian.
It turns out that death-and-dying discussions on Thanksgiving might not be such a bad thing, according to Engage with Grace, a nonprofit organization that promotes end-of-life discussions. In 2008 they launched a blog rally timed with Thanksgiving weekend, for bloggers to get the word out about end-of-life discussions. The idea is to have the conversation when most of the family members are together, and the Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect fit. There’s a five-question tool available on the site that can be used as a conversation starter, as well as other resources.
While talking about these topics could potentially clear a room, it’s a lot worse to be sitting at a family member’s bedside in the ICU and not knowing what to choose for them because they didn’t let you know in advance.
For additional information on end-of-life discussions and options, see the AJN articles “Life-Support Interventions at the End of Life: Unintended Consequences,” by Shirley A. Scott, MS, RN, CT, and “Stopping Eating and Drinking,” by Judith K. Schwarz, PhD.
And if you raised this topic at your Thanksgiving meal this year, or at another opportune moment, write in and let us know how it went.