When it comes to coping with the difficulties of old age each one of us has a different journey and a unique set of circumstances. However, it could be said that collectively, we’re often in the same boat. As family members and individuals, we often have increasingly challenging needs, we rely on each other and we rely on our health care system.
It’s important then, from time to time, to look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves, how are we really doing? Are we making the right choices for each other and ourselves? What are the options? Are there new approaches right in front of our eyes just waiting to be recognized? Can we do more? Are we stuck in tired paradigms, and are we being realistic? So asks Dr. Atul Gawande, a practicing physician and New York Times best selling author of the Checklist Manifesto, in his recently published book, Being Mortal.
In what’s been called a rivetingly honest and humane account, Gawande praises modern medicine for transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury and disease from intensely harrowing to at least manageable. But, he’s arguably disappointed when it comes to the way we currently handle the realities of our aging and mortality.
“You don’t have to spend much time with the elderly or those with terminal illness to see how medicine fails the people it’s suppose to help,” he says in his poignant introduction. Being Mortal is a thoughtful read for both health professionals and consumers concerned with where our health care system is headed, inclusive of their belief systems with making their own life and death decisions. Gawande challenges the role of new technology that, in his words, sometimes offers false hope—keeping us propped up beyond what makes sense or is comfortable for us.
Through his own experience and observations the good doctor shines a flashlight on eye-opening research and tells it like it is in a frank, but hopeful way. By following a hospice nurse on her rounds, a geriatrician in his clinic and meeting with reformers who are turning nursing homes upside down, he finds people who are willing to have hard conversations that matter.
Caroline Tapp-McDougall, Editor in Chief