How to ensure you retain a quality of life when your health declines

19-February-2015 Guardianship By Mark Streeter

BOOK REVIEW

The book, Being Mortal – illness, medicine and what matters in the end,  has some insightful answers to planning for the best possible outcome when your health declines. Written by Professor Atul Gawande, an American surgeon, author and public health researcher based at Harvard University, this excellent book is an overview of the modern experience of mortality and what it is like to age in today’s society.

Historically, Professor Gawande observes that a person’s journey from health to death is very short but nowadays, medical technology slows the rate of descent considerably.

Professor Gawande intertwines his professional experience and research with his personal experiences dealing with cancer treatment options for his father to illustrate the complex medical world we (in the western world) are bound to experience as we and our family members age.

He provides some startling facts and figures that can help us to make decisions for ourselves and with family members regarding their wants and desires should they find themselves unable to live independently. (For example, did you know that the single most serious threat to older people is falling over?)

He explains that as we age, it is inevitable that our ability to remain independent will decline. The challenge in today’s modern society is how we manage and control the destination, with many options for home support, accommodation and medical technology available. It is important that we manage and put into place structures and systems that will support us throughout that journey.

It is inevitable that our ability to remain independent will decline as we age.

From a lawyer’s perspective, it is a question of individual and human rights. It’s important to consider how the person’s dignity, instructions and wishes can be implemented and protected even when their decision-making capacity has deteriorated. Treating the disease or symptoms is certainly the most immediate and prevalent paradigm in our medical system. The side effects, however, of many treatment regimes need to be weighed up against the impact on the quality of life.

From a personal perspective, the book heightened my sensitivity and insight into my clients needs as they prepare succession plans and as I represent people with various levels of disability in the Guardian Division of NCAT and the Protective Division of the Supreme Court.

The book is also a reminder of the need for everyone to consider whether they want to have a Living Will (Advance Directive in Australia) prepared to control their future medical and support options.

To read more on the brutal facts of aging that I garnered from this book, along with my personal story and reflections, click here >>> 

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