Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Being Mortal

With folks living longer than ever before, we are all facing a protracted bout of old age. In the United States, we spend more time clinging hopelessly to youth than we do figuring out how to support the elderly in having the quality of life they both deserve and desire. 

Atul Gawande's provocative and thoughtful new book, Being Mortal, asks us to shift our focus from warehousing our parents in nursing homes to meaningfully promoting their health and well being late into life. 

When I finished reading this book, I wanted to force it upon my entire family. With my parents pushing seventy, I am aware of their mortality and health in ways I haven't been before. I want my brothers and I to have prophylactic and creative conversations with our parents about the potentially difficult decisions ahead before we get to those crossroads, while they are both sound of mind and body. 

Dr. Gawande puts forward practical advice and information in his book that I really value. He stresses the importance of foot checks and foot care in preventing falls. He frames fracturing a hip as the gateway drug to poor health among the elderly. He touts geriatricians as the unsung heroes of the medical world. His overarching message, however, is both intuitive and familiar: 

Those who thrive in old age have been able to retain meaning, connection, and love in their lives. 

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