Talk Turkey With Your Family This ThanksgivingNov 27, 2013
Ever wonder how your great-aunt died or if there’s a genetic illness that runs in the family? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to sit around the turkey and share family medical histories and find out about your parents medical wishes as they get older. However, how do you bring up this and other sensitive topics like this? Dr. Kirtly Jones talks about ways you can get your loved ones to open up about medical problems that might run in the family and other hard to bring up topics.
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Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones: Thanksgiving is coming around and this is a great opportunity for people to actually share their family histories. Now that means their family stories that make you laugh or make you cry but it's a great time to find out what Auntie Carolyn died of or what your dad has as a medical problem but he's kind of closed mouthed and doesn't want to tell you. So it's your opportunity to talk with your family about things that run in your family. Now it could be just attitudes or it could be money behaviors or it could be illnesses, so talk turkey with your family and how do you, how do you start that conversation?
I think an ideal time is what we always used to do is that we put some space between the turkey and the pumpkin pie, and it was a time to walk a few laps [inaudible 00:00:59] or walk a few laps or go into the woods, get people off their behinds and walk around a little bit. So if you've got something to share or want somebody to share something with you, walk with that person and say, "Hey Dad, I've been trying to round out my family history about illnesses and I know you see a doctor, why don't you tell me what that's about. You are a part of who I am, we share things and I'd like to know about your health."
Now I think this is harder to talk about but Compassion and Choices which is a national organization that wants to promote dialogue, the difficult conversations about end of life wishes, suggests that Thanksgiving is a good time for that too. Now this is harder for you to ask your dad maybe, or your mom what they want but if you are a dad or a mom and you want your family to know what's important to you, maybe you haven't written it down or maybe you haven't had that difficult conversation but the walk between the turkey and the pumpkin pie is a perfect time for you to get your daughter or your dad together and say, "Dad, I want you to live forever but what I mostly want is for you to let me know what's important to you in your last days. We haven't talked about this but I'm one of your kids and they may come to me. I want your voice to be heard." Or if you're the grownup, you know, the question is what, at what point do you say, "Hey Sally, you know, I'm getting older and I've written this down someplace but you might not find it and if they call you these are things that are really important to me. I mean stuffing is important to me and the turkey is important to me and seeing your shining face at our dinner table makes me smile but I don't want my end to cause you pain and I want you to know what is important to me so you can speak for me."
So, talk turkey with your family, hear the old family stories, rehear the old family stories, get a new take on an old story, find out what runs in your family, not just diseases but good things and have the difficult conversation about what's really important to you. This is a great time to do it. Go for a walk between the turkey and the pumpkin pie and have a wonderful conversation with your family. This is Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, here at University of Utah Healthcare and have a healthy, happy, smart, safe and loving Thanksgiving.
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