Am I getting morbid? I read and think a good deal about aging and death. I’m 70 years old. People around me are coping with health problems. Help!
My first reaction to Being Mortal was that it’s a complete downer. Gawande shares stories from his own family. If a family that includes highly educated medical professionals suffers so much confusion and difficulty managing end-of-life care, what chance do the rest of us stand?
I suggest starting on Chapter 4 or 5, and taking the remainder according to your interests. To me, the second half of the book was generally more useful than the first half. That said, this book (published in 2014) is a thoughtful contribution to the ongoing conversation about aging and death in America. I recommend it highly.
Gawande emphasizes that it’s not only the patient who benefits from advance planning. The course of a person’s last days or weeks has major impact on the mental health of survivors, say six months later.
The take away message in Being Mortal is buried on Chapter 6 (Letting Go), on page 172. HOPE IS NOT A PLAN.
We all hope to die at home, surrounded by our loved ones. We hope for dignity and freedom from pain. Our chance of getting this positive end-of-life experience is small. Most Americans die in hospitals or nursing homes. If that’s my fate, I want to know everything I can do in order to have some control over what happens, to “do it my way”.
Five Wishes is a form (more of a workbook) that you can fill out so that your loved ones know what you want. Any one of us may have intervals (possibly temporary) when we can’t make our own medical decisions. Families are often faced with weighty decisions. Family members may disagree about treatment. Five Wishes won’t solve all of this, but it can help.
So, I’m not “being morbid”. I’m trying, in my own way, to do some planning, to lay some groundwork, to make my future easier and more positive, and to ease my loved ones’ burdens when I die. That’s all. I feel good about it.