This blog is for anyone who is interested in psychology and well being. It will tackle questions about how therapy works and what are the differences between various approaches to therapy. I will be looking at key factors that help families and couples stay happy and connected with each other and will also look at some of the major stresses of life, offering thoughts on the pitfalls to be avoided.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Approaching Mortality

How do you understand what is happening to you?
What is your worst fear?
What is most important to you?
What sacrifices are you prepared to make?

In recent months, I have been providing a counselling service to patients and family members at a local hospice and I recently came across this book:

“Being Mortal: Illness, medicine, and what matters in the end” by Atul Gawande

I was so struck by the humanity and experience of the writer that I was wondering if a review of its contents might be useful for some of my readers. 

Who might benefit from this book?
Anyone living with life threatening illness, living with someone with a life threatening illness or working in palliative care.  Anyone who is mortal.

What are the main ideas?
Modern medicine struggles to deal with mortality. For this reason, it runs the risk of neglecting care at the end of life.

However Atul Gawande argues that, in life, endings can be more important then the countless moments that come before.

In end of life care, endings matter. This is true for both the one with a life threatening illness and for those closest to them.    

Gawande suggests that being mindful of endings eases or limits suffering by supporting individuals to:

·      Negotiate over-whelming anxiety about death, about suffering, about loved ones and finances.
·      Reach acceptance of the limits and possibilities, leading to a greater sense of empowerment.
·      Share memories, pass on wisdom and keep sakes, settle relationships, establish legacies, make peace, ensure that those who are left behind are ok. 
·      End on their terms

Difficult conversations
Gawande advocates courage in having difficult conversations with individuals and family members.

"I am worried"
He argues that facts can be daunting and confusing. According to him, people are more interested in the meaning behind the facts. He suggests that the words “I am worried that the illness is still there” convey more then any medical detail.

 The most important questions
How do you understand what is happening to you?
What is your worst fear?
What is most important to you?
What sacrifices are you prepared to make in order to hold on to what is most important?

It seems as if these questions cannot be asked too early or too many times.

Time has a habit of altering all answers and everyone, without exception, has a habit of moving unconsciously through life and of limiting the choices that they make about how they live.

These ideas will be all the more meaningful to those amongst us with a heightened sense of their mortality. If this describes you, then you might appreciate this book.

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