Breaking Down Barriers to End-of-Life Conversations and Planning in Greater Cincinnati Appalachian Communities

We all know that life ends at some point, but many of us have difficulty thinking about and planning for this inevitability. If decisions about an individual’s last days are not addressed, it can create significant challenges, not only for loved ones and medical professionals, but also for the individual. There is a need to design tools, processes, and policies that help people make these decisions in ways that are accessible to them and that align with their values, beliefs, goals, and resources. In effect, decisions about one’s last days aren’t really about the end-of-life—they are shaped by how a person lives.

The Living Values research team is exploring how to empower people in making meaningful decisions for their last days. Our focus is on vulnerable and marginalized populations, many of which have experienced unequal access to health care and other professional services, such as legal services, which are typically associated with end-of-life decision-making.

This roundtable will present some of our preliminary research as a launching point for audience discussion regarding what barriers might exist uniquely in Appalachian communities. The discussion will inform our direct design work with people in the Greater Cincinnati region, which involves providing education and opportunities for members of vulnerable and marginalized populations to co-create design solutions for overcoming those barriers. We believe that when solutions originate from community members, the solutions are more effective and better able to help improve quality of life for the whole community.