It’s National Healthcare Decisions Day

top 10 conversation starters for end of life planning

Today is National Healthcare Decisions Day – A day to consider your options and share your wishes regarding the type of medical treatment and end of life care you want to receive in the event that you cannot speak for yourself.

Why does this matter? Let me share my experience with you….

At age 21, I watched my father’s health deteriorate after he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Although he was given the option to make his medical care and end of life wishes known he did not give any instructions to his family or the medical team treating him. What happened next was horrible and a memory I cannot erase from my mind.

The cancer quickly progressed to his brain which left him incapacitated – his brain had shut down.  My mother and I were forced to confront the end of his life, before he even died. It has been nearly 13 years since that Summer day when my family and I sat with a nurse to decide my father’s fate. I would not wish this upon anyone. THIS is why National Healthcare Decisions Day matters!

Yes, it is true….most people do not want to think about their own demise but let’s face it – modern technology hasn’t made it possible for any of us to live forever….at least not yet! We recognize that it can be hard to get the ball rolling, which is why we have some pointers to start the conversation as well as links to the legal forms for all 50 state advance directive forms.

Today, we challenge you to start the conversation about end of life planning by using our top 10 conversation starters. Share these with your friends by visiting our Facebook page, Pinterest board, or follow the conversation #nhdd on


What In The World Is A Death Cafe?

The name caught your attention didn’t it? That is the point!

Death Cafe’s are a worldwide movement to talk about DEATH. Why would people do such a thing you ask? Well, despite death being a taboo topic in American culture, Death Cafe’s are popping up all over the US after launching in the UK in September 2011. As of today there have been almost 900 death cafe’s worldwide. What happens at Death Cafe’s?

There is no agenda, objectives or theme but rather a group directed discussion of death but not necessarily a grief support or counseling session. Death Cafe’s thrive on the following principles, which makes them a unique event that individuals find to be a safe and warm environment to have discussions about the very few certainties in life.

Death Cafe’s are offered on a not for profit basis, Iin an accessible, respectful and confidential space, with no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action, alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!

Death Cafe’s in The News

Video about Death Cafe’s from Portlander Kate Brassington

BBC Interview with Jon Underwood, Death Cafe Founder

The Meaning of Memorial Day

On this 3 day weekend many of us will partake in traditional Memorial Day BBQ’s, concerts, parades, or road trips. But how many of us really know the reason for the holiday?

Originally called Decoration Day, it was started three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868. The day was set aside for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died servicing during the Civil War.  By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion to honor all Americans who had died serving the United States through any of our wars and traditionally held the last Monday in May…historians suggest the later date in May to be chosen because flowers would be in bloom throughout the nation – giving more options to decorate the graves at the cemeteries.

What will you do to celebrate Memorial Day and the people who died serving our country?

Features of Caskets

There are many important factors to consider when choosing the best casket for a loved one who has passed away. Caskets can be used either to bury the body, or the cremated remains, of the deceased’s body. In the U.S., caskets are designed under a wide range of styles. The prices set for caskets as well as the materials used to make them vary widely.

There are six main types of caskets available for use by the public. These types include laminate, solid wood, steel, cloth covered, veneered wood as well as solidified copper or bronze. Materials used in making these types of caskets are plywood, mahogany or oak, steel, pressed plywood and fiberboard as well as copper or bronze respectively.

Some of the main features of the casket includes the presence of either full or half couches. This simply means that the casket lid is designed either as two pieces or one piece. Caskets also typically have inner linings on their lids, some caskets are even made to be waterproof.

High end caskets may be fitted with commemorative panels in addition to specialized hardware. Some may have internal lifts that enable the tilting of the casket during viewings so guests can view the deceased’s body easier.

Many caskets include extra external features as well as interior elements, some help aid in the handling & moving of the casket as well as with ornamental purposes. For good preservation a rubber gasket is included in caskets for the purpose of allowing as little air as possible to penetrate in. This makes the casket last longer while also preserving the body from decomposing.

On average, caskets cost between $2,000-5,000 though it is still possible to acquire them for as little as $700 and as much as $20,000. If you choose to buy these caskets from others, such as a third party, you need to budget for an extra $300-600 for the cost of delivery. Of course, as with most things, prices continue to vary based on market pressures.

Close to 70% of all the caskets found in the U.S. are made by Aurora, Batesville and York. Caskets from China are also sold in the U.S. and currently make up roughly 5% of the market. There are also caskets imported from other countries and sold in the U.S. which at the moment make up around 2% of the total market of caskets in this nation.

When buying caskets from the aforementioned manufacturers, or others not listed here, you should always ask for a complete catalog of all their offers and products. The choice of a casket is a personal decision based on the preferences of the deceased or their family and their finances.

Nelson Mandela dies at age 95

Tonight the world mourns one of the most influential leaders of the modern world.  Nelson Mandela, known for tearing down the yoke of apartheid in South Africa , died today at the age of 95.  Born in South Africa to the Thembu Royal family, Mandela received an education from the University of Fort hare, an all-black university in South Africa offering western style education.   He went on to study law at the University of Witwatersand.  In 1948, the National Party arose to prominence in South Africa and began a government backed system of racial segregation.  Mandela became active in anti-colonial politics early in his life and later joined the African National Congress political party once the policies of apartheid began to take root in South Africa.

Working as a lawyer, Mandela was repeatedly arrested by the government for ‘seditious’ activates.   Mandela became more active in the anti-apartheid movement, albeit peacefully, and was even prosecuted for treason from 1956 to 1961 along with 155 other people but was ultimately acquitted. In 1961 Mandela co-founded a militant group that lead a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government.  In 1962 he again faced trial but this time was convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government.  That began his now legendary 27-year prison sentence.  While behind bars, this leadership and the seeds he sowed took root and the county moved into a time of greater civil and racial strife.  After an international campaign took hold and spread, lobbying for his release, Mandala was released in 1990.  From there he published his well known autobiography and opened negotiations with South Africa’s president at the time, F.W. de Klerk to finally get rid of the shameful institution and legacy of apartheid.

In 1994, South Africa finally held multiracial elections and saw Mandela’s party, the African National Congress, claim victory with Mandela winning the vote.  Mandela holds the title of the first black president of South Africa.  Some key pieces of his legacy include the formation of a Government of National Unity, establishing a new constitution that did away with the apartheid policies, and establish commissions to help bring reconciliation to a nation deeply wounded by the horrors of apartheid and the ensuing human rights abuses, widespread poverty and inequality.  Mandela’s exploits did not stop there. Once out of the presidency, he actively participated in mediating between Libya and the United Kingdom for the Pan Am 103 bombing, military action in Lesotho, significant work combating HIV/AIDS, and continually fighting for human rights in South African. His legacy includes winning over 250 honors, including being the subject of concerts and songs written by artists such as U2 and 50 cent and others and most notably, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.  Nelson Mandela forever changed the world we live in.

Nelson Mandela’s funeral plans have not been made public at this time, but we will continually update the post as soon as information is made available.

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Estimating End of Life for Hospitalized Patients

Vetted prediction tools can help estimate end-of-life, but clear and empathetic discussions with dying patients and their families are more important.

by Susan Kreimer

End-of-life conversations are common in hospital medicine, and Caitlin Foxley, MD, FHM, is no stranger to their nuance. She offers patients and loved ones as much factual information as she can. And regardless of their preference—aggressive treatment, comfort care, something in between—it’s ultimately their choice, not hers. But no matter what, she will ensure the patient’s pain remains under control.

“The way I practice is to allow my patients to make the end-of-life decision that is in accordance with their wishes, and not simply push the least expensive one on them,” says Dr. Foxley, medical director of IMI Hospitalists and hospital service chief of internal medicine at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. However, she adds, “most people, given accurate information in a compassionate manner, would choose to die at home, and not in an ICU on a ventilator, with chemo and pressers going through a central line.”

Although hospitalists differ in their approaches to end-of-life discussions, most agree that the majority of critically ill patients want to know their prognosis. Tested end-of-life prediction tools (more…)

California Couple, Born on the Same Day & Married 75 Years, Die One Day Apart


They said it wouldn’t work but after a lifetime together, Helen and Les Brown proved everyone wrong.

The California couple and high school sweethearts, who were both born on the same day and celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary this year, died one day apart: Helen passed away on July 16, and Les died the next day. They were 94.

“It was a real love match, wasn’t it?” their oldest son, Les Jr., told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “They were together every day for 75 years.”

The Long Beach lovebirds eloped on Sept. 19, 1937, and were married against their own parents’ wishes, according to their sons. Helen was from a working-class family, while Les was from a wealthier one. Both sides believed the love would never last, but the two embodied the meaning of their wedding vows “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

California Couple, Born on the Same Day & Married 75 Years, Die One Day Apart| Real People Stories

The Browns moved to Long Beach in 1963, where Helen was a housewife with a knack for buying and selling area properties while Les owned a photography studio, serving as a photographer for the Navy.

Despite being born the same day, each were two different people, according to their sons, who said Mom was strict while Dad was more laid-back. Like all couples, their children said they had issues to work through during their years together but that the two constantly reaffirmed their love, a special bond that was always on display.

Zach Henderson, owner of the Ma N’Pa Grocery, a corner store near the Brown’s home in Long Beach, said he saw the couple almost daily.

“About a year ago, [Helen] had her hand on his face and they were cheek to cheek,” Henderson told ABC News. “She said, ‘Isn’t he the most handsome man you’ve ever seen?’ ”

At the time of their deaths, Les was suffering from Parkinson’s and Helen had stomach cancer, according to the Press-Telegram.

The Brown’s youngest son, Daniel, summed up his parents’ life and death.

“My mom often said she didn’t want to see my father die, and he didn’t want to live without her.”


Source: People Magazine

Hugo Chavez Dies at Age 58

International sources and Venezuelas Vice President have confirmed that Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s vocal leader died today, Tuesday March 5th after a long battle with cancer.

Chavez cast himself as the 21st century socialist and changed the worlds views of Venezuelan politics once he took office in 1999.

Here is a interesting look at his life, with some unknown facts about his revolutionary legacy:

  • Born in Sabaneta, Barinas to a working-class family, Chavez grew up to become a career military officer and then founded the secretive Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement in the early 80’s after becoming dissatisfied with the Venezuelan political system.
  • While in office during his first term he introduced a new constitution which increased rights for marginalized groups and altered the structure of Venezuelan government.
  • Was re-elected for a second term in office in 2000.
  • Chavez created a system of Bolivarian Missions, Communal Councils and worker-managed cooperatives during his second term after winning the re-election in 2000.
  • Won his countries presidential election for a 4th time by defeating opponent Henrique Capriles.
  • June 2011 he Chavez recovered from a surgery to remove an abscessed tumor and cancerous cells.

There is no word yet of a funeral for Hugo Chavez or what type of estate plan he had left his family.


Larry Hagman known as J.R. Ewing in TV show Dallas dies at 81

Best known for his role as a the oil tycoon J.R. Ewing on the 1980’s primetime television soap opera Dallas, Celebrity Larry Hagman died today (November 23rd) in Dallas, TX from complications of lung cancer while being surrounded by close friends and family.

  • Born in Fort Worth, Texas to Broadway star Mary Martin.
  • Began his career in Dallas, Texas acting in small rolls at Margo Jone’s Theatre and as a production assistant.
  • Appeared in numerous tent show musicals and The Taming of the Shrew in New York City and The London production of South Pacific with his mother.
  • Was drafted for the United States Airforce in 1952 during the Korean War, ended up spending a majority of his military service entertaining U.S. troops in the UK and Europe bases.
  • 1965 brought much success as he starred as Barbara Eden’s TV “Master” in the successful NBC sitcom, I dream of Jeannie.
  • TV Show Dallas debuted in 1977, with Larry taking on the role of J.R.
  • 1980 and 1981 brought two nominations for Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, but did not win.
  • Hagman was quoted by People Magazine in 1995 regarding his alcoholism: “By lunch I might start on another half-bottle of champagne. I would go through about three bottles a day, sometimes with people who would drop by the set, but mostly by myself. I just kept that steady drip going. The drinking sometimes made it harder to remember lines, but I liked that constant feeling of being mildly loaded.”
  • Received a liver transplant in 1995.
  • Announced his battle with lung cancer in Summer 2011 prior to the launch of the new TNT show Dallas.

No details have been provided about the funeral, but we plan to update our readers as soon as we hear more details.

Additional web sites about Larry Hagman:

  • Personal Website:
  • Internet Movie Database Profile:
  • Archive of American Television:
  • TNT TV Show website for Dallas:

Queen of Comedy dies at 95, what will Phyllis Diller’s funeral look like?

Yesterday the first woman comedian Phyllis Diller died in her home at age 95. Known for her crazy hair and colorful outfits, her best accessory was her laugh.

Born in 1917, she never felt pretty so she designed her comedy shows to be funny instead.

How does a woman of the 50’s end up a comedian when most woman stay at home to take care of their families? It was out of desperation, her husband was out of work and they had to find someway to support their 5 children. Despite several rejections, she continued to make people laugh – known for poking holes in the phisad of the “happy house wife”

Diller spent last years painting, playing cards and spending tme with family. She died with a smile on her face.

The funeral I envision for Phyllis has a display of many pictures of her during her comedy shows while she wore her colorful dresses and wild wigs. Displaying her dresses and wigs would be a fun way to honor her. Another idea is to have a comedian speak at the service, keeping the day light and funny just like Phyllis! Unique funeral favors that could be given out could be her memoir Diller wrote and published in 2005 “Like A Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy” or maybe a dvd with a collection of videos from her performances.

If anyone does find out what her funeral plans are, please do share them here. It is always fascinating the types of memorials and funerals celebrities have.

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