Press Release

Being Mortal Awareness Campaign is Changing Lives Across the US

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 -- Through a national campaign that engages audiences through film and discussion, more than 40,000 people across all 50 states and the District of Columbia are taking steps to do something most adults avoid until it’s too late: discuss the kind of care they want when faced with serious illness and death.
The Being Mortal project began in February 2016 and to date, more than 650 organizations have partnered to engage their local communities in 771 Being Mortal events. Preliminary outcomes based on participant surveys indicate that 96 percent of audience members for the first time will decide on the person they want to make their healthcare decisions if they are unable, think about their end-of-life care preferences, and communicate those wishes to a loved one.
Of medical and healthcare professionals in the Being Mortal audiences, 100 percent report that the event will help them talk with their patients about matters related to advance care planning and end-of-life care. Perhaps more importantly, close to 90 percent of these professionals say that they are now more likely to talk with patients about care options and preferences earlier in the course of serious illness or the aging process.
The events include a screening of the PBS FRONTLINE film, Being Mortal, followed by a guided and reflective audience discussion that ends with participants understanding the concrete steps they can take to start having conversations with their loved ones and healthcare professionals. The Emmy-nominated film is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Atul Gawande, MD.
Ninety percent of Americans know they should have conversations about end-of-life care, yet only 30 percent have done so. Largely as a result this communication vacuum, 70 percent of those living in the U.S. die in hospitals despite an equal percentage saying they want to die at home.  The Being Mortal project is changing those numbers by encouraging conversation and action.
 “While written advance care directives (ACDs) are important, the nuances of end-of-life care can’t be captured in a checklist,” said Julie Berrey, executive director of the John and Wauna Harman Foundation, which is funding the project. “Discussing deeply-held personal values and what matters most at the end of life before a serious illness occurs helps make shared decision-making easier for patients and families when a loved one faces a severe illness, especially in the absence of formal ACDs or when a patient can no longer participate in the discussion.”

Coordinated through Hospice Foundation of America (HFA), the project has exceeded expectations, which led to a three-month extension of the project through March 31, 2017.
 “The overwhelming success of this project highlights the demand for education on the importance of having these conversations,” said Amy Tucci, HFA’s CEO.  “Ensuring quality end-of-life care is HFA’s mission so we think about this topic every day, but most people don’t think about it until they’re faced with serious illness. This campaign is helping people consider not only their own end-of-life care, but also care for their loved ones. I’m grateful to the Harman Foundation and all the wonderful organizations that continue to join us in this campaign to provide Americans with information they need to have their wishes carried out when it matters most.”
For more information contact Cindy Bramble, cbramble@hospicefoundation.org or Amy Tucci, atucci@hospicefoundation.org or 1-800-854-3402. [MORE]

About the John and Wauna Harman Foundation
The John and Wauna Harman Foundation (Harman Foundation) is a private family foundation rooted in its donors’ humble beginnings. Thus, the Harman Foundation values humility, compassion, education, and a concern for the most vulnerable in our society. Its mission is to improve end-of-life care in America by encouraging all Americans to have meaningful conversations with family and loved ones about their end-of-life care wishes before serious illness occurs, thereby improving quality of life as death is near.

About HFA 
Hospice Foundation of America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. HFA meets its mission by providing programs for professional development, public education and information; funding research, producing publications, and by providing information on issues related to hospice and end-of-life care. Our programs for healthcare professionals are designed to improve care of those with terminal illness and those experiencing the process of grief, and are offered on a national basis. Our programs for the public are designed to assist individual consumers of health care who are coping with issues of caregiving, terminal illness, and grief.