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;"