Evolution and Purpose

Elephant in the Rööm™ was created by a husband and wife team (a registered nurse and social worker, respectively) to help individuals, families and groups think about healthcare needs and discuss decisions they would make in a variety of physical and emotional states. The purpose of Elephant in the Rööm™ is to help people begin meaningful conversations regarding the kinds of care they want when health conditions change or even as natural aging occurs.

Many people are eager for advanced care planning discussions, but conversations are often delayed until times of acute illness or medical crisis. Research has found that some healthcare professionals are either uncomfortable with having end-of-life discussions or do not have adequate time to have these conversations.

“So many people tell me they don’t want to burden their family with their care.  But, what few realize is that NOT talking about our personal values/beliefs, preferences for treatment, and where we want our care to happen, actually MAY burden our loved ones,” says Cindy.  “I created this graphic to illustrate the importance of having meaningful conversations with people we love, and with our healthcare team.”

Delaying these important conversations until a disease is diagnosed or a trauma occurs puts an added burden on patients, and more often on their loved ones as surrogate decision-makers, who may be asked to quickly contemplate what treatment or care the patient would want in that moment. A medical crisis or trauma can raise the level of emotional chaos disabling rational thought and decision-making ability.  Research shows that earlier conversations about decision making can reduce the emotional burden that loved ones experience when they are forced to make medical decisions for someone else.

By using Elephant in the Rööm™ each individual can confirm their preferences, enhance communication with their family and healthcare team, provide time for family and other loved ones to understand decisions, and relieve uncertainty or guilt about decision-making. These are personal conversations, not medical consultations, and they will require a loving commitment of time and attention from all involved. Elephant in the Rööm™ can help people begin these important personal conversations, and become more comfortable with ongoing conversations.

Elephant in the Rööm™ was designed to be used when people are healthy (or relatively so) and able to contemplate their healthcare needs in an abstract way.  This will minimize angst and anxiety that can sometimes arise in talking about medical trauma, dying, and death. Elephant in the Rööm™ can also be used by healthcare providers with their patients by selectively choosing certain categories or particular cards to target more immediate conversation.