BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End

ME and Lailan

Thank you to all who shared great comments for Think Beyond the Nest. Yes, we certainly are in a unique stage of life!   I know many of us are at the point in our lives where our parents are getting up there in years and may need some extra assistance – a natural part of life.   Phil and I have aging parents as well.

Oma Opa Golf
Phil’s step-mom and Dad. Golfing!

My dad passed away ten years ago. My 91 year-old mother is in a skilled nursing facility in Hawaii and is immobile and nonverbal after years of suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I feel as though I have already lost my mom. It’s been tough to experience her decline, especially long distance, but she chose this facility years ago and clearly expressed a desire to stay in Hawaii. Because she made this clear and cognitive choice and made it known to her children, I feel so good knowing that is where and how she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

A couple of years ago I came across a book called BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. Both Phil and I found it extremely helpful and enlightening in preparing ourselves for how best to assist and support our parents as they naturally grow older and more frail.


The author provides a very interesting and informative history of how we got to where we are today culturally regarding caring for the elderly and its impact on how we think about dying. I love how he encourages us to have those tough “end of life” conversations with our parents as early as possible. I often think back to a sermon our minister gave where she stated, “Spoiler alert, we’re all going to die.” Yes, we are! As difficult as it is, I think we must courageously strive to honor and respect the wishes of our elderly parents and help guide and support them to the kind of end they want – not what we want for them, but what they want. Having those tough conversations early certainly helps in that goal.

Nana and Elkie
Phil’s mom and step-dad who live in Tucson!


If you haven’t read BEING MORTAL, Phil and I highly recommend it. If you have read the book, what did you think of it?   Are there any other books or resources that have been helpful to you as you support elderly parents?

8 thoughts on “BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Add yours

  1. Wish I had seen this earlier for my mom! I tried to accommodate all her wishes. But it would have been easier when she was sound of mind. Thanks guys!


  2. I’ve not read the book, but can relate to what many friends are going through with their aging parents. Greg’s dad is now in hospice care at home, and we and his siblings are rotating our time for his care, along with Home Instead caregivers too.

    His initial months in hospice care included minimum drugs for comfort, and tanks of oxygen to cover his needs while on daily forays out to his garage workshop, while he fired up various power tools and created all sorts of shelves and storage doo-dads for him, now that he was wheelchair-bound and needed things at a lower level. He continued to wake up with a mission, so hospice made every effort to maintain his comfort while allowing him the freedom to do what he enjoyed. Over the past few months his health hit a steady decline, and he is now completely bed-ridden and eats only a few bites daily. His days are few, but he continues to be surrounded by lots of family support as caregivers, and a great hospice team whose focus is on comfort care. It’s a labor of love, and I am honored to share in it.


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