In his latest book – Being Mortal – Dr. Atul Gawande explores disability, diminished capacity and the onset of dementia, not as medical issues but as the natural processes of aging. He urges his readers to confront their own anxieties and reexamine their relationships with their loved ones as life forces them to abandon their independence and become dependent upon others.
Meaning over Safety
Gawande challenges us to change the way we think about aging, disability and deathGawande rejects the idea that safety is the number one goal when caring for our aging population. When safety becomes the only priority, too often routines are adopted that deprive our elders of dignity and the possibility of joy. Instead, Gawande asks us to remember that it is a meaningful life that matters, not only during our productive years but also when we have moved into the realm of physical and mental infirmity. He reminds us to have conversations with those we love, ask them what matters, listen to their answers and find ways of enhancing their experiences. “Making lives meaningful in old age is new,” he writes. “It therefore requires more imagination and invention than making them merely safe does.”
Gawande challenges us to change the way we think about aging, disability and death. His book is a must read for all of us who find ourselves providing care for family members and loved ones in their declining years.