Aware Senior Care Blog

being mortal recommended reading

Being Mortal: Recommended Reading

“Being Mortal” is a wonderful book which we feel should be required reading for anybody, not just professionals in the elder care industry as we are.

Live life to its fullest! It may be cliche, but an enjoyable life often isn’t the focus. You learn reading story after story about people suffering from some chronic disease that chronic illness does not discriminate about age.

Things can happen in life young or old whether it is a tragic accident, accidentally contracting a deadly disease or being inflicted with a life ending disease such as cancer. Age doesn’t matter.

Gina and I have discussed this book and our own experiences in life and luckily, from our first days of marriage, we always took opportunities to travel and have fun. To make some time for ourselves. You just never know.

We’re definitely not “rainy day” people. This doesn’t mean we are or we’d recommend being reckless. We’re planners and we’re taking steps to plan out the later years of our lives financially, socially, spiritually, physically etc. It just means we factor into our daily lives appreciating what we have and taking time out for ourselves.

We thought about how to share further thoughts on “Being Mortal” for everyone to comment on. The table below is filled with passages and comments on the book that struck us and how it impacted Gina and I in our personal and home care business lives.  Enjoy.

Key ideas and references in Being Mortal:

“Being Mortal” Passage/ConceptCommentAction
Page 9, “The
experiment of making mortality a medical experience is just decades old. It’s young and the evidence is it is failing.”
This really hit home for us and changed the way we look at and evaluate Doctors. I now look for Doctors and admire MDs that invest in their patients. They invest in knowing them and helping them execute their wishes.I found a good Geriatric physician for my mother Dr. David Fisher of DMHC and author of “How to keep your mother (and you) out of a nursing home.”

As Gina and I give seminars on Living Well at Home, we discuss the importance of choosing a good Geriatric physician and you don’t have to settle.

If our clients don’t have a preference on a doctor or a strong opinion, we make recommendations on doctors we have worked with and admire.

It’s about quality of lifePersonally we formed an opinion on how we will live our lives at or near the end.  It’s about quality of life and not living to be 100.The change in my life is I am more conscious about how I’m living life now.

How you live life now sets you up for later in life. So taking care of your body is really important– exercise, diet, annual physicals.

There are no guarantees but if you take care of yourself now, the better chance you have at a good quality life.

Exercise is VERY importantMobility. One of the doctors I’ve met talks about how vital mobility is. Once you stop or can’t move, you run out of options to live at home.Gina and I joined REX Wellness Center which is 2 miles from the office and has an array of services including a pool.

We also decided to pick up the $40/month fee for any of our office staff that want to join. All 4 of our permanent staff did and they really appreciate it.

Listen and respect your clients wishesAfter reading the book, Dr. Gawande made it part of his medical DNA to always ask the clients about their wishes. After he presents the options he invests in his patients to understand their wants and goals.The impact this had in terms of our business is to train not only our office staff but our caregivers as well that it’s not about us, it’s about our clients.

We need to be sympathetic and attentive to their needs. There may be a better way but if the client wants it a certain way and it’s safe for them then so be it.

Again it’s about them, not us.

Page 9, “Waning days of our lives are given over to treatments that idle our brains and sap our bodies for a sliver’s chance of benefit.”When presented options, I hope that I have enough sense to be able to evaluate whatever treatment options that are offered in terms of the quality of life and how long the treatment can extend my life.This is consistent in the way Gina and I view the way we want to live our lives in later years.

We’re all about quality of life and we don’t intend to battle all the way to the end.

See “Make a Plan for Life” and about Gina’s Blog – “Message to our children.”

Page 41, What is a doctors Job? Quality of Life.Dr. Gawande describes the job of every doctor. It should be about quality of life.“The job of every doctor is to support quality of life.

It means two things: as much freedom from the ravages of disease as possible and the retention of enough function for an active engagement in the world.

This is the definition of quality of life I now embrace.

Make a “Plan for Life”After reading through the book and reading various stories on people’s end of life journeys, Gina and I have it in our minds to make a plan for life.In 2016 we created the Tim and Gina Trust.

We’ve included in this trust a living will and expressed our desires about our end of life journey. Gina  even blogged about this at:

http://www.awareseniorcare.com/blog-  posts/a-message-to-our-children

Our plan for life will include:

-Transportation – when we can’t drive is their public transportation or private such as Uber?

-Social – if not in independent or assisted, do we have friends and families nearby?

-Financial – We have a trust and investments, and long-term care insurance.

-Spiritual – Staying involved in our church.

-Physical – Exercise

-Meals – if we can’t make them can they be delivered?

Ultimately, we would like to set us up for a good quality of life where we have family nearby and we have purpose.

We have no intention of ending up in a nursing home!

What is purpose?

Dr. Gawande describes purpose as “to be of service”Last May I joined the Rotary. One of Rotary’s foundation principals is to be of service. It’s true.  One of the things that brings joy to Gina and I is service. Helping others. That’s probably why we are all in this business. It’s in our DNA to help others.

Later in life when we are “retired”, I hope to fill our lives with service opportunities. One of our Rotary members is 90 and he’s going strong. A good role model.

Page 17/18, I’d like to be just like Dr. Gawande’s Grandfather, Sitaran.Dr. Gawande talks about his Grandfather in India. His Grandfather lived independently to 110 (note his last years were living with family)When I’ve evaluated the person I strive to be or like it would be Sitaran. Dr. Gawande describes Sitaran’s values.

He emphasized education, hard work, frugality, earning your own way, staying true to your word and holding others strictly accountable for doing the same. Wow, that’s who I’d like to be.

Page 105, on assisted living

Dr. Gawande comments on the job of assisted living“The real job of assisted living is to figure out how to sustain the connections and joys that matter most to him.” This was in reference to a gentleman named Lou who did not fare well in assisted living after his Daughter moved him.

I think if I owned an assisted living facility this would be our mission statement. In terms of our business, we adopted this philosophy in our mission
– helping our clients live well at home.

Page 123, a reason to liveIn this passage Dr. Gawande discusses the importance of giving people a reason to live.One way to give a person a reason to live is to take care of someone or something else. You could be a caregiver or simply take care of a pet. A job.

In terms of our business, we look for scenarios where our client is not engaged or lonely. We encourage activities and social. Purpose is a big part of our home care practice. We try to help give our clients that sense of purpose.

Page 137, What is the job of a doctor? Dr. Gawande describes his jobHis job is to make lives more meaningful. I think that’s a big part of our (caregivers) job.
Page 140, AutonomyIn this passage, Dr. Gawande quotes Philosopher Ronald Dworkin about autonomy.“Whatever the limits and travails we face; we want to retain the autonomy – the freedom-to be the authors of our lives. This is the marrow of being human.”

That’s what we hope to achieve – autonomy. To be the author of our lives and not let anyone, including families lead us or tell us what to do.

Summary

“Being Mortal” had a positive and profound impact on my (our) personal and business lives. It helped us think deeply about our lives, how we are living our lives, the impact decisions you make early on how they affect the later years of your life and how important quality of life is.

When we meet clients and we start caring for them quality of life and purpose are key things we think about. We invest in understanding our client’s wishes and goals and it’s our job to help them with making these goals possible.

However, we also recognize we can’t tell the client or the family what to do. That’s why we adopted our motto – “Guiding Your Way. Live well at Home”. When Gina and I get frustrated or feel bad about a family situation we always ask ourselves “Are we doing the right thing? That’s driving force. Doing the right thing.

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