If you’re alive, and/or have parents, and/or have children, you should get your hands on a copy of this book.
It includes a ton of research and indispensible advice about the end of life, yours or someone else’s. Katy Butler, the author, is a journalist who leads you with a gentle hand through all phases of aging — questions to ask, issues to think about, places to find more information. It’s honest and unflinching, written in an easy-to-read manner.
I haven’t blogged here since I blogged about my dad’s death in April. I’m pretty sure that’s no coincidence.
I visited him many times while he was on the hospice floor of the hospital. I was lucky enough not to have to deal with any of the details or paperwork, because I have older siblings who thankfully handled all that.
But as I read this book a few months later, I was struck by how lucky we were about some of what happened to Dad (and to us) and how other information would have been really helpful to have known. The author talks about what you can start doing now to prepare for aging, because—surprise—none of us is getting any younger.
She explains how you can find allies in the medical community to help with your goals. If you want to stay in your house, who can help you do that? If you want to move to a facility, how do you find one?
There are sections entitled Disaster-Proofing Daily Life; Knowing Your Medical Rights; The Art of Honest Hope; Understanding the Trajectory of Your Illness; Avoiding the Hospital; Coping with Dementia; Making Good Use of the Time You Have Left; This is What Dying Looks Like; Preparing for a Home Death; and Humanizing a Hospital Death, among so many others.
Each chapter begins with a checklist to review for yourself, or someone you love, to see how the chapter can help in your situation. You’ve given up driving. Your health conditions have changed how you live. Your hair is thinning in familiar places and sprouting in others.
I found every page of this book useful and thought-provoking, and I’ll be buying a copy for each of my kids, with notes—lots of notes—in the margins.
We research major vacations over a long period of time. We make preparations many months in advance, sometimes years, for an upcoming birth or adoption. We start laying the groundwork for our kids’ college in middle school, if we don’t get it done in the preschool years.
Isn’t dying well worthy of at least the same level of preparedness?
How prepared are you to tie up things on this earth? Does this topic freak you out or are you comfortable talking about death?