Drury student project paves the way for difficult advance care conversations

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Oct. 25, 2017 — A project organized by Drury University senior Heather Harman is challenging students to consider end-of-life care and advance healthcare directives with their friends and family, all in a comfortable dinner setting.

The “Death Over Dinner” initiative is part of Harman’s senior capstone project as a communication studies major, and is funded by a grant from the Hospice Foundation of the Ozarks. HFO plans to use lessons learned from the project to improve the way it approaches young adults about advance care planning in the future. According to a research report in the July 2017 issue of Health Affairs, two out of three U.S. adults have not completed an advance directive.

“This isn’t something we talk about a lot at this age demographic,” says Harman, who modeled her project after a successful case study. “We’re young and healthy and we don’t plan for the end of our life because we think it is years and years away, but that isn’t always the case.”

The project hopes to change this attitude by starting conversations among students about their wishes regarding the end of their life. Participants are urged to complete their own advanced healthcare directives, and are provided with resources to guide them through the next steps in such a process. The first dinner occurred Monday evening. The project will continue with two more meals on Wednesday (11 a.m. lunch in the Shewmaker Communication Center and 6:30 p.m. dinner in Drury’s Martin Alumni Center), and a final dinner with student-athletes at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Martin Alumni Center. Trained facilitators will lead the conversations.

“Hospice Foundation of the Ozarks is excited to provide funding that supports the ‘Death Over Dinner’ Project at Drury,” says HFO Executive Director Kim Morelock. “This project encourages meaningful conversations regarding end-of-life decisions in a casual environment. That is what is important – just having the conversation.”

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Media Contact: Regina Waters, Ph.D. – Project Advisor and professor of communication: (417) 873-7251 or (417)-849-3641. Email: rwaters@drury.edu.