Friday, January 10, 2014

Discussing Death Over Dinner

There are few subjects we Americans have trouble talking about. We’re pretty cool about sex (except when having ”the talk” with your kid). We’re careful when discussing politics (unless it’s an election year), and most of us can skirt around those comments and issues concerning religion. 

But there is one discussion we just can’t quite bring ourselves to have – the dreaded “end of life” talk where you make your wishes known to your family about how you want your death to be handled.

That’s where Death Over Dinner comes in. Using their five step interactive questioner, Death Over Dinner lets you plan out a dinner party where the main focus will be on what you want when you reach the end of your life.

The questioner starts with you deciding whom to invite to the dinner. This will help you decide what you want to achieve during the “talk”, and the website offers several articles, videos and audios for you and your guests to explore before the day of the meal.

Once the get-together is over, there’s still more work to be done. Next step: you need to make a plan – a real plan. In other words: Write it down! According to a survey conducted by the California HealthCare Foundation, 82% of people say it’s important to put their wishes in writing. 23% have actually done it. Death Over Dinner offers you two tools to assist in getting that done.

The first is a conversation starter kit that provides step-by-step instructions on what needs to be done and how to do it. Compiled by the Conversation Project and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the kit begins by reinforcing how important making your wishes known really is.

One startling fact from the Centers for Disease Control; 70% of people say they would prefer to die at home. 70% of people die in a hospital, nursing home or long-term care facility. Something to bear in mind when this task seems daunting ...


The questions in the kit will cause you to consider some tough issues, but the answers
need to be decided by you, and then shared. You will need to consider several factors including:

How much detail do you want to be given about what is happening with you?
How involved do you want to be in the decision-making process?
Is quality of life more important to you than quantity of life?
How involved do you want you loved ones to be in the death process?

Another online resource is provided by Everplans They offer a mini workbook that will assist you in choosing a health care proxy, writing a living will, making funeral arrangements, settling an estate, appointing a power of attorney, even information on how to become an organ donor.

Another great resource is Death Café where strangers meet to eat, drink and discuss death. Currently there are over 450 death Cafes in the U.S., Europe and Australia, with over 3,000 participants.

Death Café does not provide information about death or dying. Instead, it’s a
chance to meet with others and hold open-ended discussions about death. Meetings can be held in restaurants, community buildings, parks; even festivals.

There are no employees or staff with Death Café. Individuals simply decide they would like to host a meeting. A guide on what to do and how to accomplish it is provided on the website at

Baby Boomers have been instrumental in getting these talks started. Too many have had to make, or are now making decisions for aged parents about end-of-life issues. If a parent did not put those wishes in writing, it can be awkward and stressful to make them without their guidance. It is much better for everyone to be prepared.

All it takes is one conversation to start the ball rolling, and then taking those necessary steps to make sure that your end of life experience is what you want it to be.

~ Joy

If you have attended a Death Over Dinner event, or one like it, let us know what you thought of it.


  1. Also, seriously considering making pre-need funeral arrangements, and like in my state of Ohio, you can also on a separate form write out your designations for who is to handle your funeral at the funeral home if you are like me and do not have children. You can name a primary and also an alternate person who could even be an attorney if you wish to be the person to step in right after you die to make sure that your funeral and burial arrangements are handled the way you would wish. You can include specifics and details. As I was reminded, funeral homes don't look at your will. A will is probated months later in most cases.