Promoting Research Literacy for Improved Patient Outcomes

Contradictions and promise for end-of-life communication among family and friends: death over dinner conversations

Contradictions and promise for end-of-life communication among family and friends: death over dinner conversations

The free, open-access website called “Let’s Get Together and Talk about Death,” or Death over Dinner (DoD), provides resources for initiating end-of-life conversations with family and friends by taking the frightening-talking about death-and transforming it into the familiar-a conversation over dinner. This qualitative, descriptive study uses grounded theory and thematic analysis to answer the following research question: How do friend and family groups communicate about death and dying in DoD conversations? To answer this question, 52 dinner groups were recruited and conversations were conducted, which consisted of a facilitator and volunteers. The facilitators were the researchers or research assistants who allowed dinner participants to control the conversation and identify topics of interest, and participants were free to share as much or as little as they wanted. Our analysis revealed that family and friend groups communicated similarly in that they talked about similar topics and used similar communication strategies to discuss those topics. Three major themes emerged: Desire for a good death, which juxtaposed people’s perceptions of a “dreaded” death with those of a “desirable” death; tactics for coping, which consisted of the subthemes of humour to diffuse tension or deflect discomfort, spiritual reassurance, and topic avoidance; and topics that elicit fear or uncertainty, which consisted of the subthemes of organ and whole-body donation, hospice and palliative care, wills and advance directives. Ultimately, however, participants felt their experiences were positive and DoD shows promise as a tool for families to engage in end-of-life conversations.