My book, Getting The Best Care: Rescue Your Loved One from the Healthcare Conveyor Belt is the result of my 20+ years of experience caring for patients and their families. It is also inspired by what I have seen when helping my own friends and family members, including both of my parents, as they coped with new health challenges that come with aging. No one has influenced me more than my mother, Alma.
April 19, 1916-May 18, 2015 But her impact will be ongoing through her 16 children, 23 grandchildren, and countless great-grandchildren and beyond. Alma's story and how she handled healthcare decisions as she aged is part of the inspiration behind my book and speaking career. My mother was a remarkable woman. She came from a modest small-town background and read more books and traveled to more countries than most people ever will. And she did all that while raising sixteen children. She lived to celebrate her ninety-ninth birthday, and we were all blessed to have had her in our lives so long. I was especially lucky in that Mother lived with my family for the last four years of her life.
Even though she suffered a severe decrease in her short-term memory during those last six to eight years, she always knew us and enthusiastically engaged in conversation. Her love of music and delight in small children never waned. And although her physical capabilities declined, the need to see herself as a person with autonomy and dignity never diminished.
With that in mind, I made her the promise that we would never make her go into the hospital (except to treat a broken bone or to have a baby). I realize that given my healthcare background, it was less frightening to me to make that promise than it might be for others. I was confident that I could be her advocate and could get her what she needed even with her staying at home. But I also believe that with some planning and clear discussion of goals, many more families can help their elders to achieve a peaceful and comfortable end to their lives, rather than an institutional death. And you can maximize the comfort and enjoyment of your loved one's final years, instead of spending that time on repeated hospitalizations. We need to view old age as a stage in life rather than a medical condition.
I briefly explore how my mother handled the final years of her life in the book: Getting The Best Care: Rescue Your Loved One from the Healthcare Conveyor Belt. In addition, you will read about the unfortunate consequences that can happen when an aging person does not have clear goals that come from her values regarding healthcare. This website, my private coaching and speaking opportunities, together with the book, seek to lessen the stress of family members as they protect their aging loved ones from unnecessary suffering.