Monday, May 9, 2016
Title: Being Mortal
Author: Atul Gawande
Genre: non-fiction, medical history, end-of-life issues
I read this book after my boss called it "the best book I've ever read." How can a book blogger pass on a recommendation like that?
In the recent past extended families took care of each other, yet in this same era people tended to die quickly and unexpectedly and had shorter lifespans. Nowadays people can languish in pain for years from the effects of multiple chronic diseases, medications, and medical interventions. When medical knowledge increased, our lifespans increased, as well, but not necessarily our quality of life in later years or when suffering with a terminal illness. While family members could take care of each other in the past, the increased lifespan and effects of multiple diseases means that family members do not have the time, skill, or appropriate knowledge to take care of their loved ones. Dr. Gawande investigated the history of nursing homes and assisted living institutions for this book. The priority of nursing homes is safety of the residents and efficiency for the staff. Personalized quality of care of the residents is never discussed which is why so many of the elderly waste away. Dr. Gawande also toured and interviewed hospice care which provides comfort on the terms of the ill instead of high-tech medical procedures. Hospice allows the terminally patient to prioritize what matters most to them in the end and helps the patient reach those priorities.
This was definitely the best non-fiction book I have read this year. Dr. Gawande writes in a personable and non-intimidating style about a subject that most of us are uncomfortable discussing. Dr. Gawande was also uncomfortable discussing end of life issues with his own parents and all three of them are doctors! Keep the tissues handy- you will need them!