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Start Talking About Life's End Well in Advance
Date:4/2/2010

Though uncomfortable for some, conversations should be ongoing, too

FRIDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Death can be tough to talk about -- especially if it's your own death, or that of a loved one.

Yet end-of-life conversations are worth the discomfort, experts say. Armed with information from such talks, people can make sure that their wishes, or those of a friend or family member, are followed when it's most crucial.

"It's very important to have multiple people who know what you want and can stand up for you, and support each other," said Dr. Gail Austin Cooney, a neurologist and palliative medicine specialist who's president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and medical director of the Hospice of Palm Beach County, Fla.

"As a society, we're still very much in denial about death," she said. "We still like to pretend it's an optional event."

What can be learned from such talks might be surprising. Beverly Bus found that out when her husband insisted on having an end-of-life conversation with her last April, just before he had open-heart surgery.

"He says he wants to be cremated, and that kind of surprised me," said Bus, 49, of Wellington, Fla. "I would've expected different. I didn't know that was what he wanted. He doesn't want any part of a ceremony. He just wants to keep it simple."

Cooney had a similar revelation. She said she'd assumed that her mother, who died in May, would not want to be in the hospital at the end. After all, Cooney herself had never liked being in a hospital.

But it turned out that her mother did want to be in the hospital. She felt safer with medical staff on hand to help her, Cooney recalled.

"I sort of wanted to impose my wishes on her, and, when I listened to her, I understood she was comfortable in the hospital," Cooney said.

So how can families start an end-of-life conversation? It really depends o
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