Tag Archives: Being Mortal

Book Club Reflection: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

5 Aug

My book group met to discuss Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal last week. We got off the topic of the book a bit because a lot of us wanted to discuss the same topic more than what Gawande had to say about it. Many of us have had loved ones go through end-of-life care so we all had a lot to share.

We did talk a bit about Gawande before we began. He’s a very impressive person. He was born in Brooklyn and earned his MA from Oxford and his MD from Harvard. He served as a health care advisor under Clinton during his campaign. He’s currently working on developing a new kind of health care company with major players in the business world called Haven. I’d love to get coffee with this guy, but I doubt he has the time.

We had a new member join us this month who works as a social worker with older adults and she had a lot of personal insight to share. She revealed to us that many older adults are afraid of death and how they will die. Some members of our group were surprised. They talk about death and dying with their families and friends openly. Of course, these are trusted loved ones, but the topic still comes up.

The social worker mentioned that she met Bill Thomas, the man who brought birds and plants into his retirement community to bring life back to it. She said he’s a little crazy, but most people with radical ideas are a bit out there. The idea of it is to make people feel useful. Sometimes, this is accomplished by having residents wash a dish or peel carrots for dinner. Thomas’s way was to have them take care of animals. Often, you see these ideas implemented incorrectly. A birdcage in the lobby where the staff care for the animals is in the right vein but doesn’t put the responsibility on the residents and defeats the purpose.

Suicide among the Baby Boomer generation is increasing (see this article). One of the reasons cited is the loss of power. We read a lot in Gawande’s book about how you lose your individualism as you grow older and the power to control what you do. This loss of power can fuel depression and it seems to be growing as the Baby Boomers age.

We talked at length about the difference between hospice and palliative care. I was still a bit unsure of the difference after reading the book. Palliative care is meant to keep someone who is ill out of the hospital and anticipate problems before they occur. It’s a bit of ‘comfort care,’ but it’s also on the preventative side as it mitigates side effects. Hospice means you are no longer being treated for the disease you are dying of. You won’t be rushed to the hospital for a symptom of your disease. This is the idea of ‘making every day as good as possible.’

These are hard topics for some people to talk about because they’re very personal. Our conversation got emotional but I’m proud of us and how much we trust each other to talk about these difficult issues. It was interesting how this book focused on keeping the elderly or sick person in control of their situation while the book we read about cadavers, Stiff by Mary Roach, focused on how what happens to our bodies after we die is completely out of our control. We can’t forget that the change should happen only at death and not before.

I can’t believe summer’s almost over but we’ll meet one more time in August before the fall picks up. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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WWW Wednesday, 17-July-2019

17 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: Still going slow with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I keep pecking away. Slowly but surely. I’ll get there.
I think I’ll finish A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin this week. I’ve made some really good forward progress and I’m prioritizing it when I’m in my car. Maybe wishful thinking, but I’ll stay positive.
I really wanted to say that I’d finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I guess the style has started to grate on me and I’m not reading it as quickly as I’d like to. At this point, I just want to finish it so I can move on.
We haven’t had a chance to listen to more of Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It might be a few weeks before we have a substantial car ride together again. We’ll be driving to Ohio at the end of the month for my Half Ironman so I know we’ll have some time then.
I’ve been listening to The Golden Rules by Bob Bowman while I workout. I’m not sure if anyone outside of the competitive swimming world is familiar with Bowman, Michael Phelps’ and Allison Schmidt’s coach, also named head coach of the Olympic Men’s USA Swim Team. This book seems like it’s trying to appeal to non-swimmers, but swimming is a huge focus of it just due to Bowman’s job. I’m enjoying it, though.

Recently finished: I finished Being Mortal by Atul Gawande quickly after I got back to running and biking. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected and was able to post my review on Monday. Please go check it out! I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.
It’s more of a short story than a book, but I listened to Ajax Penumbra, 1969 by Robin Sloan. This is a short prequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and it was really fun to revisit the world Sloan created for that one. The review for this one posted yesterday and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Not a bad week for reading!

Reading Next: I can’t wait to start The Map of Time by Félix Palma. It’s taunting me from my bedside table and intimidating me with its length. I really want to start soon!
I’ve decided on my next eaudiobook since I’ve been flying through them so fast. I want it to be A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. It’s been more than three years since I read the first one but I think I remember it pretty well and I can’t wait to jump into the world again!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (4/5)

15 Jul

It’s been a while since one of my book clubs picked a non-memoir non-fiction. I hadn’t heard of this choice before it came up on the list but, as so often happens, I’m so glad we picked it because I ended up really enjoying it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Summary from Goodreads:

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.

Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them.

In his bestselling books, Gawande has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures–in his own practices as well as others’–as life draws to a close. Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life–all the way to the very end.

This book hit me harder than I thought it would. I recently lost my grandfather who had been living in an assisted living facility for a few years and eventually succumbed to pneumonia. Both of my grandmothers are still alive and both are in assisted living. I’m sure most people have experienced death and dying in their lives, either friends or family. This book made me start thinking already about how I’ll react when my parents start to age. As the oldest daughter, care will likely fall to me. We’re fortunate that my husband has other siblings so we won’t likely have to deal with both sets of parents. I’ve started thinking about what’s important to my parents and what a quality life might mean to them and how I could provide that. But I also know that I need to ask when the time comes. This also made me think about what I would want to do if I had a terminal disease. How far would I go to fight it and how important are comfort and quality of life in the end.

Gawande portrays a lot of different people he’s met and it’s clear that they have different priorities and personalities. Some of them want to live as long as possible while some value independence and others comfort. I liked that he chose a wide variety of people at various stages of their lives to comment in this book. It started off feeling like a book on elder care but he brought it to a place where I realized it could affect me as well.

Providing the details of his father’s illness grounded the second half of the book for me. Gawande isn’t just preaching best practices. He’s had to live through the tough conversations he talks about and live with the consequences of them. I thought it gave a lot of weight to what he was saying. I liked how he showed that he applied what he learned to his patients and the difference he felt it made in their final days.

While I was reading this book, I went to a friend’s wedding. We had breakfast at her family home on the morning of the wedding. It’s a home that her great-great-grandfather built and which has passed down through the generations. When we sat down to breakfast, I noticed an elderly woman sitting in an armchair in the corner of the room. Assuming correctly that this was her grandmother, I walked over and introduced myself. The woman jumped and I was afraid she was going to spill her coffee. She apologized for her reaction, she is mostly blind and hadn’t seen me approach. The smile on her face when I squeezed her hand and when each of our friends followed me over to her and introduced themselves melted my heart. She appreciated being recognized. We were in her home, after all. I’m not sure if I would have done that if I hadn’t been reading this book. She was quiet and seemed perfectly happy with her coffee and the conversation she was having with her daughter. But she really appreciated meeting her granddaughter’s friends who she would see later that day at the wedding. This book has made me think more about what I would want when I’m grandmother-aged and I’ve started treating people differently. I hope it sticks.

Atul Gawande
Image via Wikipedia

The section on end-of-life decisions and quality of life stuck with me. We go through a lot to help add months to a person’s life. Too often, I don’t think a lot of thought has been given to how that additional month is in reality for the sick. It’s likely a month of recovery and pain. Talking about what a person wants and needs for their final time is critical. I started to think about what I would want if I had to make hard decisions and I think being to read and comprehend would be very important to me. I have a huge TBR to get through after all!

There wasn’t a part of this book I particularly disliked. It was all very informative and I think it helped change my perspective on aging and dying. We have to accept our mortality and respect our lives when it comes to the end. None of us can escape death as much as we try. We have to know when the race is over.

My audiobook was narrated by Robert Petkoff. I liked how he narrated the book, giving weight to a serious subject. He didn’t try to use voices for the women or men that Gawande profiled. He was straightforward and clear about the subject. I thought that was a good way to deliver the message.

Gawande has to face death a lot in his job. He does surgeries with the point of curing, healing, and granting longer life. I think he’s well positioned to lecture on the subject of mortality. He has seen first hand when he can help and when he’s only kicking the can down the road. Bringing in his father’s illness shed a lot of light on the book as well. It’s not just what he does with patients, but what he really believes as well.

Writer’s Takeaway: I don’t know how much I learned about writing from this book. The non-fiction subject Gawande chose deserves some different approaches than the fiction I aim to write. It did highlight for me how adding a personal touch to a topic can make it seem so much more real. I’m likening this to the ‘write what you know’ mantra and how that can make a story stronger.

I enjoyed this book, the perspective, and what it’s left me with. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Being Mortal | Timestafford’s Blog
Review: Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal- Medicine and What Matters in the End | The Healthcare Marketer
“No Risky Chances” by Atul Gawande (Excerpt from Being Mortal) | Lunch Break Reader
Book Review: Being Mortal | The World of Pastoral and Spiritual Care

WWW Wednesday, 10-July-2019

10 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I moved forward a bit in Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I had a lot of coworkers in the office who aren’t normally there and that meant a lot of catching up. Usually, that happens during lunch, unfortunately. Still slow going but the book’s made a big shift in a positive direction.
I’m being positive about finishing A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin before I have to renew it again. I’m on disk 32! I can do it. Only a normal length book to go!
I had all the intentions of reading a lot of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers this weekend, but that didn’t pay off as much as I’d like. I think I’ll finish it this week, but that might be wishful thinking again. It’s just hit a slow point for me and I’m having trouble moving forward.
I’ll be finishing up Being Mortal by Atul Gawande soon. I’m mostly recovered from my injury which means I’m ready to start biking indoors and running again which means more time listening to eaudio. I’m optimistic that this one will be done next week.
My husband and I made more progress on Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton over the weekend. It could have been better, but I kept falling asleep. Fail. We’ll keep pecking away at it while we do a lot of driving vacations this summer.

Recently finished: Nothing for a second week. Big bummer here, I thought I’d have something to report.

I did manage to post my review of Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens. Having one thing done still feels good! It went up on Monday.

Reading Next: I picked up The Map of Time by Félix Palma from the library and I’m a bit overwhelmed. It’s over 600 pages! It’s quite hefty and I’m excited about the premise, but now also nervous about finding time to read the whole thing. Wowza!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 3-July-2019

3 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I made more progress than expected with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min during lunches. This week will be even better because it’s going to be so quiet around the office and I’m only working two days anyway. Maybe I’ll get even more in.
I’m trying to have all positive thoughts about finishing A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This book is packed with some of my favorite moments from the show and I’m loving the small differences. I always think I know what’s coming but am always a little surprised as well.
I’m so glad to be reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers again. I adore his humor and I think his story is really fascinating. Thought I wonder how much of it is real and how much is exaggerated.
I didn’t get through as much of Being Mortal by Atul Gawande as I would have liked. I’ve had to take some time off of biking and running due to knee pain. I can’t wait to get back to it and fly through the second half of this book!
My husband and I started Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton during our epic drive this past weekend. We’re almost halfway through it and, unfortunately, it’s not doing much for us. The slow start was ok, but it’s past the start and we’re getting restless. I’m hoping we can listen to a little more this weekend and it picks up.

 

Recently finished: Nothing new this week. It was a busy week so I’m not surprised, but I’m hopeful I’ll have one, maybe two, books here next week. A girl can dream, right?

Reading Next: I think I need a little fiction with all of the non-fiction I’ve been going through. I’m planning on grabbing The Map of Time by Félix Palma. This was a recommended book on a page-a-day book calendar I had a few years ago. I’m still going through them but I’m almost ready for another calendar like that.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 26-June-2019

26 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: We had a lot of work lunches over the past week so progress on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min has been almost non-existent. But, as always, I’m still moving forward!
I’m optimistic about A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin but my renewal will end again next week. I think one more should do it, I have about ten disks left.
I’m able to return to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers! This one has been really fun so I’m glad to be able to devote some time to it again.
I started listening to Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It’s not exactly exhilarating listening for workouts, but it’s making me appreciate my health and youth more than any other book I’ve listened to. It’s very humbling and makes me look at my parents and grandparents in a new light.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray and posted my review earlier this week. I think the book was going well but seemed to have a bit of middle book syndrome kick in at the end. I want to keep moving forward with the series, though. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take me four years to get to the next book this time. I gave it Four out of Five Stars
A marathon reading session on Saturday means I finished Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens before my Monday book club meeting. I don’t usually cut these so close but I had a hold up with another book with a deadline. I hate deadlines for reading. I hope not to have one again for a while. I’ll be posting my review in the next week or so.

Reading Next: Hubby and I have a long car trip this weekend. The audiobook we have picked out for the drive is Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. This is a title I found at Powell’s when we went two years ago. We’ve tried to start it a few times and failed. I’m hoping these two ten-hour drives will push us to listen this time!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 19-June-2019

19 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I tried but still made minimal progress in Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I’m fine with it being a slow go, really. I should pick shorter ebooks, though…
I was able to renew A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin for another few weeks. I’m being optimistic about how many disks I’ll get through.
Still on hold with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.
I’m very close to finishing Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray! I’m enjoying this one a lot and I’m only a little nervous about a plotline that’s a bit similar to my own novel. I’m hoping it’s still dissimilar enough to be unique.
I’ve just started Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens and I’m trying to get through as much as possible quickly! I’m a little nervous about finishing this one in time but I’ll stay focused.

Recently finished: I renewed Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy and was able to finish it just past the renewal date. Phew! I’m so glad I read this one, it was really helpful and gave me some good ideas for how I’m going to edit my novel. I thought it was ready to submit, but now I’m thinking I need to do at least one more draft before it’s ready to send off. I should have a review for this one up either tomorrow or early next week.

Reading Next: I’m going to start my next book club selection on audio as soon as I can’t so I’m not crunched for time again next month. Our net pick is Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. I have no idea what it’s about but I think it’s our non-fiction selection for the year. I always end up liking these more than I thought I would.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!