Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is authored by Atul Gawande, a noted surgeon. It is one doctor's examination of the process of sickness and aging and how medicine has and has not done a good job of preparing individuals to face their own mortality. You may be thinking that this sounds like the most depressing of books, and it does bring up a number of topics that we just don't like to talk about, think about, or acknowledge. However, I found it to be filled with fascinating and thought provoking discussions, interesting research, historical details, and some incredibly poignant stories.
Dr. Gawande speaks of the need for medicine to do a better job of treating the whole patient, where they are at that moment. He talks of the history of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, how they came to be and what they have become. He relates important information about decision making, end-of-life choices, hospice care, and figuring out what is that best quality of life that an individual can imagine at each stage. He is honest about his own family's path when his father was diagnosed with a spinal tumor. This book is one to think about and, hopefully, discuss with those important to you. I recommend it very highly.
On a more personal note, with your indulgence, I share a bit about my walk through the topics included in Being Mortal. In the last 6 years, I've lost both my parents and my younger sister. All 3 were on hospice care at the end of their lives. I was incredibly lucky that my parents planned and, more importantly, talked with me and my siblings about their end-of-life wishes. Both of them had Alzheimer's/dementia issues, and I was the one making the decisions for them. I followed what I felt they would have wanted as best I could, and they both passed peacefully from this life cared for by some wonderful hospice nurses. My sister had inoperable lung cancer, and I recognized her fierceness in many of the stories in this book. She took treatment after treatment, but eventually after 2 years, her battle was at an end. Her family called in hospice and she was compassionately cared for. I'm pleased that all 3 of my loved ones were able to communicate their wishes for their own end-of-life care. It was still completely heartbreaking, of course, but they had their choices respected. My advice to all is to discuss these things with your loved ones and prepare for a time when choices are so difficult. And then live your life on your terms, loving your special people, and enjoying the moment.
I'll leave you with 2 quotes from Being Mortal:
"At least two kinds of courage are required in aging and sickness. The first is the courage to confront the reality of mortality--the courage to seek out the truth of what is to be feared and what is to be hoped....But even more daunting is the second kind of courage--the courage to act on the truth we find."
"our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one's story is essential to sustaining meaning in life;"
It's so hard to read such books, but I think it's necessary so as we make all the right decisions and be prepared. Thanks for sharing with us, Kay! I know it's tough losing our loved ones at some point, but unfortunately it's inevitable (I lost my mother to lung cancer 9 years ago.)ReplyDelete
I'm so sorry about your Mom, Melody. The being prepared thing is important to me and one of the points in this book. So many are not ready, and that's understandable, but if you've already expressed some thoughts beforehand, it is most helpful.Delete
I am sorry for your loss. This sounds like an excellent book that would have much guidance to think about. I'm going to add this to my to read list. Thanks for your great review.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Pat. After reading it, I felt that I must share with people because the advice is really good and the situations are pretty much universal to a certain extent.Delete
Ive been wondering about this book and am going to add it to my list. It sounds it raises many important issues and gives you lots to think about. May try it as an audio. Thanks for the review, Kay.ReplyDelete
JoAnn, it might be good on audio. Not sure. I think that, to me, that's the critical point here - thinking about these things a bit before being in a situation where thinking clearly is so, so difficult.Delete
Such great quotes! This is an important topic and as difficult as it is to confront, being prepared for end of life issues.ReplyDelete
It is a difficult topic, Jenclair. Lots of the things talked about here are certainly depressing and sad. That being said, it's so helpful to family when everyone is clear on what is acceptable and not for a person.Delete
I first heard about this book via another book blogger and her thoughts on it got me curious about it. It's definitely an important topic that everyone eventually needs to address--and face. Great review, Kay.ReplyDelete
I recently read a great review of this book and I wasn't too keen on reading it. Now I think I am more inclined to. Death isn't something I am comfortable to talk about either. My dad tries to have that conversation with me and I just switch topics. Yep, not the right thing to do. Hopefully, I can read this book and maybe change my perspective.ReplyDelete
You might try it and see what you think. This doctor spent a lot of time explaining why his own thinking had changed and how. I understand about the topic being so difficult - it is. Not at all cheerful to discuss.Delete
I'm catching up with reading blog posts and when I read this one I really wanted to say thank you Kay.My younger sister died nearly seven years ago from lung cancer. She was very upset and angry about the cancer and fought hard to combat it and just couldn't accept the fact that it was terminal. It was so hard, she just wouldn't talk about it - I wish we could have done.ReplyDelete
I'm so sorry for that loss in your life, Margaret. We never know exactly how we will react to these things until we are in the midst of it, but I can't help but think that preparation is helpful, at least a little bit. Thank you so much for sharing! Hugs!Delete
I remember hearing about this book when it first came out and I really would like to read it but I feel this is one of those I have to "prepared" for. I worked in a nursing home for a couple of years and it was heartbreaking to see the lengths some people would go to, to prolong a loved one's life but it would make me wonder about quality of life? It's so very hard to let someone go, I lost my wonderful dad to cancer 14 years ago, but at the same time we need to think of what they want. Wonderful review Kay!ReplyDelete
Oh, I'm so sorry about your father, Iliana. I'm sure you still miss him a lot. And yes, it is really hard to let go. Thanks for sharing.Delete
I'm so sorry for your losses Kay. On Monday night Jason and I went to see Still Alice (haven't read the book yet) and it did lead to a limited discussion on end of life issues. Have you read/seen it? It really touched us both.ReplyDelete
I read the book quite a while ago - after my Dad died and before my mother. Wow. It was so powerful and I recommended it to the lady who ran my mother's memory care center. I have not watched the movie yet, but I will at some point. So glad that Julianne Moore got recognized for her work in it. And thank you for your kind words. :-)Delete
I guess I saved this to comment on after I had a chance to write my own review. :)ReplyDelete
It's definitely a thought-provoking book, isn't it, Kay? I'm so glad I read it and now I'm eager for my husband to get some time to read it, so we can discuss it together. I'm also eager to try some of his other books. I started Better (on audio) the other day, but I got distracted after the first chapter. I think his books are probably better suited for reading rather than listening.
It's a tough topic or rather topics and I know that most people just run the other way rather than talk about it. Sigh.Delete