A Look at a Book is a new series I’m hosting to help keep you informed about the latest books having to do with adult development and Middlescence. Why is this important? The books coming onto the market are a reflection of our struggle with the very idea of aging in America. A Look at a Book is an efficient, enjoyable way to stay informed.

I went to a funeral recently; It was heartbreaking to hear about the loss of a loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. At the same time it was encouraging to learn about the informed choices she made about when she wanted to end treatment so that she could focus on spending quality time with her husband, children, parents and other close family. Sara’s life was too, too short but she died in peace and with dignity, surrounded not by tubes in a sterile hospital, but by her closest loved ones.

I had just finished reading Dr. Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal.  This is a must-read for anyone who will die someday.  (Yes—that’s all of us!)

The subject matter is challenging of course, but at the same time the book is easy to read as a result of Dr. Gawande’s style and storytelling. He shares the journey of people like us, making the information relatable.  He shares a very personal insider’s experience of his own father’s demise, enabling us to relate on a personal level.

Dr. Gawande articulates the ways in which our culture and system of health care (an oxymoron at times), have focused on life at all costs, often to the detriment of our health, wealth and emotional and spiritual well-being. We have become a culture that has used hospitals and nursing facilities to isolate the dying.  Why have we become accustomed to having people suffer like that?

One primary reason is that we don’t feel comfortable talking about death. How many doctors, trained to tell their patients how to live, are ready to talk to them about how to die?  Few receive training for this and it’s simply not the way our system currently operates.  Thankfully that is changing as palliative care is emerging as an increasingly accepted option.

“We have come to medicalize aging, frailty, and death, treating them as if they were just one more clinical problem to overcome. However it is not only medicine that is needed in one’s declining years but life—a life with meaning, a life as rich and full as possible under the circumstances.  Being Mortal is not only wise and deeply moving it is an essential and insightful book for our times…”

Oliver Sacks

Have you read a book on aging, adult development or midlife you would like for me to cover in A Look at a Book? Email me at Barbara@barbarawaxman.com or post in our Facebook Page.

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