Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

This is simply a fantastic book that is very easy to read and follow. I think I blazed through it in only a couple of sittings (can I still use that expression in this era of marijuana debates?!)  The author Atul Gawande is a surgeon and a professor at Harvard Medical School, amongst other appointments and accomplishments, which makes him an extremely well-positioned writer for the topic.

Who should read it? Anyone with aging parents, or for planning for your own old age. It is no secret that we are living WAY longer than we used to.  Average life expectancy for men is 87 and for women is 88.  There used to be a four year spread, but men are gaining on us now. They must be taking better care of themselves 🙂 Even more startling is the projections for the younger generations; they should hit the ripe old age of one hundred!

This really isn’t surprising with the increased awareness of health, exercise, nutrition and such. However, I would venture to guess that the largest contributor to our longevity is modern medicine. Research and new procedures and medications are keeping us around much longer. But is this always a good thing? And what about quality of life versus quantity? That is what this book is about.

Katherine Boo writes on the back cover of the book: “A deeply affecting, urgently important book — one not just about dying and the limits of medicine but about the living to the last with autonomy, dignity, and joy.” I can’t agree more. The author really does a fantastic job of addressing the autonomy and dignity issue that by and large is being ignored in our traditional nursing homes today.

Do yourself and the elderly people you know a favor — read the book. It will change the way you think about this issue.