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Are Americans Afraid to Talk About Dying?

Talking to Family, Friends Helps Make End-of-Life Decisions

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"There are usually some pretty natural openings," she says. "Shows on TV, or a country music song, or opera. It is a matter of looking around for the things that make it natural to have short conversations, over and over again.

Unfortunately, Lynn says, what we want for ourselves and for our loved ones may simply not be available.

"You can't write a living will for care that isn't available," she says. "If a person wants to die at home with good care, but there isn't good home caregiving in their community, you can choose all you want and so what. ... It is easier to get an implanted defibrillator than to get meals on wheels."

Lynn urges people to think about the kinds of care that are actually available to them -- and to demand more.

"Make yourself a political force," she says. "Ally with other family caregivers -- because we all are or will be or have been caregivers. We have to build a health care system that is trustworthy, reliable, and sustainable. So get to know these issues. We have to build a system that is good enough to take care of us."

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