The New York Times published a blog post last week on a new effort called the “Conversation Project” seeking to make long-term care planning a kitchen-table issue. The project, spearheaded by former journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman, is the first step in a comprehensive effort to ensure that long-term caregiving is considered when all local, state, and federal policy and financial decisions are made. Ms. Goodman became involved in the project while helping her 92-year old mother in her later years. Being 70 years old herself, the journalist became incredibly frustrated with the confusing nature of the senior caregiving process and the lack of advocacy for those involved. Ms. Goodman was actually on Medicaid for a few years at the same time as her mother, a situation that our New York Medicaid lawyers know is becoming more and more common.
Many details of the Conversation Project are still being developed. At this point Ms. Goodman is leading a webcast in late January, has an online forum, and has an article being published in the upcoming Harvard Business Review’s “12 Audacious Ideas” issue. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge is also acting as an unofficial sponsor of the project in its early stages.
In discussing the project, Ms. Goodman explains that the beginning of the advocacy effort involves massive communication. She noted, “Everyone has a story. We need to share stories of the good deaths and bad deaths of people we loved.” She explained that more community members must demand access and information to help them ensure their story is not one of pain and unhappiness. Of course, every New York elder law attorney at our firm is familiar with how prior preparation plays a huge role in the quality of life experienced by seniors in their later years.
The Conversation Project is hoping to combine with other efforts which are pursuing similar goals. For example, a former head of the AARP has launched the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC). C-TAC states its mission as one to empower long-term care consumers and deliver policy changes for the benefits of an aging population.
Many of the activists involved in these efforts are surprised that there has not been more community outrage based on the often inadequate care provided to many seniors. They argue that Medicare and Medicaid have not kept up with the changing dynamics of the elderly population. One advocate noted that these days seniors “live too long and die too slowly, at enormous financial and emotional cost to themselves and their families.”
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