A Crusade to Talk About End-of-Life Care

How to have “the conversation” with your loved ones.

Senior woman with her home caregiver.

[Read: Dear Sons: Can We Talk About Death And Dying?]

Having found so many so ready to share their experiences with end-of-life care, Goodman believes the moment is ripe for a sweeping culture shift on the subject. She likens this moment in end-of-life care to the brink of the women's rights movement, which she chronicled. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, storytelling set the stage for social change, she explains, suggesting that talking about end-of-life care can change the way we view and handle death and dying.

"If we get it right, we'll get something big right," she says. "When we get it wrong, we get something big wrong."

At stake is not just helping people die in the way they want but helping their loved ones through the process as well. "It's not that you reduce someone's mourning," she says. "Death is still a hard loss, but you can reduce their depression and guilt if they feel that they have done what the person they love wanted."

[Read: 7 Ways to Help a Loved One Grieve.]

Plus, you can avoid what she heard a doctor dub "seagull syndrome." This is the all-too-common conflict between siblings when one flies in and "dumps all over the plan" put in place by the child who is on site caring for the parent, she says. "The last thing that you want as a parent is for your kids to have a huge falling out at the end of your life."

When people do have these conversations, they report them being "some of the richest and most intimate conversations they've had," Goodman says. "It's real."

[Read: 5 Ways to Reflect, Refocus and Renew Your Life.]