Tuesday, April 24, 2018

'Being Mortal' and End of Life Planning


We are all going to die.  Most of us do not want to think about this.  We admire people who fight bravely against the ravages of disease, even if it only means they have extended their lives a few weeks or months.  At the same time, we rarely envision that we may be tethered to machines at the end of our life.  When we do think about the end of our life, we have a pretty image of ourselves living until an extremely old age, then dying at home in our bed, surrounded by our loved ones, saying our gentle good-byes.  Most of the time, however, we prefer not to think at all about the end our life.

However, we need to remember that we are all going to die and DEATH IS NOT A FAILURE.  It is a perfectly natural part of life and something for which we need to prepare, for our own sake as well as the sake of our loved ones.

Review of "Being Mortal" by Dr. Atul Gawande

Only rarely have I recommended a book in this blog.  However, I believe it would be helpful for anyone who is over the age of 60, or who has a loved one over the age of 60, to read "Being Mortal" by Dr. Atul Gawande. I believe they would find it very helpful and eye-opening.  It will help you make smarter decisions for yourself and your loved ones concerning the best types of assisted living and medical treatments for the very elderly or sick.

This book is easy to read and contains a large number of case studies which illustrate the various points made by the author, Dr. Atul Gawande, an American surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He is also a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Early in the book, he talks about the normal aging process and the types of illnesses and disabilities which are common.  Dr. Gawande notes that the normal decline in our health due to aging often results in losing our independence and being placed in traditional American nursing homes.

In the opening sections of "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End," Dr. Gawande discusses the problems with normal nursing homes and their desire to put our medical care and safety above any other consideration.  However, he then shares information about a variety of developers of assisted living facilities who also take into consideration our very human desire to have privacy, independence, pets and a variety of activities available to us as we age, even if this means we are not always bubble-wrapped in the name of "safety."

Later in the book, Dr. Gawande discusses the value of hospice and palliative care, whether or not a terminal patient decides to continue to try various treatments for their illness.  He explains that it is important for the family and care providers to take the time to learn how the patient wants to spend their final days or weeks.  Often, in an attempt to avoid telling the patient they are dying, doctors subject their patients to a series of worthless treatments which may make them miserable or even shorten their lives!

This book covers a great deal of helpful information which will make it much easier for you and your loved ones to make more informed decisions about where they want to live during the final years of their lives and the types of treatments they wish to try.  In many cases, it will enable families to improve the quality of the time they spend with a loved one who is dying.  This is a book which every family will be able to use as a helpful guide when they have aging family members.

The book, "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" is available in hardback, paperback, audio, Kindle, and large print editions in bookstores and from Amazon.

To learn more about common medical issues which affect us as we age, suggestions on where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, changing family relations, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.


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