Recommended Reading: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
Physicians have been given a gift. Through their intellect, education, and hard work, they have the power to heal people. For physician Atul Gawande, it was humbling to learn that none of this prepared him or his colleagues for the patients they couldn’t heal. In his book Being Mortal, he tackles how physicians and the healthcare industry can better serve their patients.
A Book about End-of-Life Care
Gawande begins by sharing the stories of his own family including his grandfather back in India – happily living with family members, comparing it to the more independent living of his American in-laws. He then delves into the realities many face as their bodies and minds begin to fail them.
Families are overwhelmed. Our elders lose their independence, leaving their homes to enter nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As comfortable as these facilities may be, they can be lonely, restrictive, and expensive.
Enter Bill Thomas. Thomas began working as the medical director of a nursing home in upstate New York at just thirty-one years old. He worked to tackle what he saw as the “three plagues of nursing home existence” – boredom, loneliness, and helplessness. Thinking outside the box, he filled the nursing home with pets, and patients thrived as they cared for them.
Gawande continues his profiles of physicians and patients including the elderly residents of La Crosse, Wisconsin who have been noted for their extended life expectancy and reduced length of stay in hospitals. Is there a fountain of youth hidden in Wisconsin? No, just an educated public who have made their end-of-life wishes clear. In fact, 85% of La Crosse residents have completed an advance directive.
As a physician, Atul Gawande has found his own conversations with patients shifting. Instead of being simply focused on the cure, his discussions shifted to what type of life patients desired. Did they want to live longer or did they want the highest quality of life they could achieve?
Whether you are reading Being Mortal as a healthcare worker or as the child of aging parents, the text challenges us to rethink the aging process and how we can best support each individual to give them a good life for as long as they live. We are reminded that we can continue to provide much needed care for someone even if we can no longer treat their illness, giving each patient the opportunity to shape their final days according to their own wishes.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides care to patients facing serious, life-limiting illnesses. Please call 1-888-564-3405 to learn more about our services. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande is available to order wherever books are sold.
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