With the expertise of a medical surgeon and the tenderness of a son, Atul Gawande takes a brave look at what it means to come to the end of your life. The book’s opening provides a clinical look at what we all must face one day–our mortality. From there, the reader is taken through a history lesson of how the elderly and those with failing health have been treated through the years. We land on today’s solution, being the horrifying realities of a nursing home.
All of the things that are important to a person, a few belongings, the freedom to come and go as one pleases, or to be in charge of one’s own schedule, are replaced with regimented guidelines. Planned bathing and mealtimes, overmedication and under stimulation snuffs any bit of life that might be left, out.
In Gawande’s opinion, today’s society is doing more harm than good by prolonging suffering for the sake of extending a person’s years. Compassion and creativity re-shape the concept of nursing home life. He offers the idea that with careful communication, a balance can be found that provides courage for the unthinkable, while honoring an individual’s wishes right down to the last moment of his life.
This complicated topic, handled with dignity and care, provided me with more clarity with regards to my aging parents as well as my own wishes in my final days. I highly recommend this book for anybody ready to face the reality of life’s counterpart.