Atul Gawande, 2014

This is my personal review of a book that has been interesting and helpful to me. It may be interesting to others — depending on one’s age. I am learning things I didn’t know about aging and having positive and negative feelings about the rest of my life. For example, I read that research is telling me I am “slowly falling apart”. And the author describes all the parts that are declining. The good news is apparently I am not rapidly falling apart. The bad news is that I am falling apart. I think I need to recognize, accept and deal with my declining years both rationally and emotionally.

The author is very concerned about the medical profession’s inability (and his own) to deal effectively with the later part of patient’s lives. Doctors aren’t trained for this and assisted living/nursing homes don’t succeed. To me the book had three parts, interwoven throughout.

1) The doctor/patient relationship: The doctor to be more like a counselor.

2) Assisted Living/Nursing Homes: Be more attentive to patient’s dying needs.

3) The aging person’s perspective in later life: This was the key part for me.

He uses case examples (of dying patient’s and his father) over and over to describe how the profession needs to improve. This got to be a little overwhelming to me at times but I realize it was his way of making his point. Hearing how people are painfully dying is not easy to take, but maybe it helps me avoid denial.

The fact that I am 88 years old and writing now about how I want to create my future life (in future blogs) is what made this book interesting and useful to me. I am not sure about recommending it to others. Eighty year olds may find it of interest. It may be helpful to others who are inclined to think about creating their future. Following are some of my “take-aways”.

Interesting things I am learning to think about:

  • Eight Activities of daily living, without assistance – basic physical independence. Use toilet, eat, dress, bathe, groom, get out of bed, get out of chair, and walk.
  • Eight Independent activities of daily living – the capacity to live alone. Shop, cook, housekeeping, laundry, medications, phone calls, travel on own, handle finances.
  • There is no better time in history to be old.
  • Sooner or later, independence will become impossible.
  • Inheritance has little influence on longevity.
  • It is not death the very old say they fear; but what happens short of death.
  • What others want for the aging infringes on the aging’s sense of self.
  • Patients want information and control; but they also want guidance.
  • Two kinds of courage are required in aging and sickness: 1) Courage to confront the reality of mortality. 2) Courage to act on the truth we find.
  • For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story.









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3 Responses to BEING MORTAL

  1. David Zinger says:

    I look at this book. I like just about anything Atul writes from Better to Checklist Manifesto. Thanks for writing about it from your perspective

  2. says:

    I think it is time for us to be having talking time together over breakfast at Jim’s.  This book has obviously made an impact on you and your realization of life at this time for we older folk.  I’d love to talk with you about it. The bulleted points you make of things you have learned are hard to think about or acknowledge their truth.  Many of the points I have been aware of–like the activities of daily living, and the point of need to know how to live alone.  I have been trying to encourage Al to learn more things about taking care of us.  He has not had to do any cooking or household chores in his past.  I have said if I were ill and couldn’t do any of the cooking or daily care, he would need to know how to do that.  Likewise, I have been trying to learn about how our furnace works and other maintenance tasks.  Of course, I have lots of years of knowing how to live alone, but he doesn’t.  We have talked a little more intensely about someday going into an assisted living facility just to take care of the potential time we might be alone.  We have a lot of friends that have done that because we have a couple of places here that are very active facilities.  These places have lots of good activities with people still very active but who just don’t want  to have to maintain their houses anymore.  Many of them do a lot of traveling, and some are still working.  The downside is that you then are surrounded by older people all the time.  Some of them, of course, are very elderly if they have lived there for awhile.  So it is not an ideal thing to think about!  But I think as your referenced book points out–we need to address the aging and dying issue.  I don’t like it.  As the saying goes, “Old age ain’t for sissies”.   Your blog is very good–well written as always–and thought provoking.  I would think younger people could benefit from the message of the book by way of understanding what their elderly parents are experiencing.  My mother often said in her last years, that it was difficult to have all of her friends gone because she had no one that understood what she was experiencing.  Wish I had been there for her better than I was–well, I guess I wish I had my knowledge of how I feel now –then–to be more helpful for her.   See you in March.  We are looking at being there March 7 through April 7–there about. Marianne

  3. Cynthia Schroeder says:

    So glad to read this blog posting, HB. I just read Being Mortal and found it to be so well-written, with a kind of precise and careful approach, so welcome from this physician. Gawande combined his own personal experience with an emerging perspective very important to our “western medicine” approaches to healing, acceptance, and the processes of dying and death. Your own thoughtful commentary was encouraging because of your positive attitude and honest inquiry into your own thoughts, including your interest in continuing to learn and grow. I am glad you reviewed this book and glad that I had just read it. I am thankful for you, HB.

    Date: Sun, 1 Feb 2015 19:49:44 +0000 To:

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