The Art of Conversation Through Serious Illness: Lessons for Caregivers

The Art of Conversation Through Serious Illness: Lessons for Caregivers

by Richard McQuellon, Michael Cowan
     
 

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Every day, thousands of people receive a diagnosis of serious, life-threatening illness, and their families and friends suddenly become caregivers. Despite the best of intentions it is not always easy to communicate well under these circumstances, or find deep empathy for something one has never before experienced. When is it best to speak, and when to be silent?

Overview

Every day, thousands of people receive a diagnosis of serious, life-threatening illness, and their families and friends suddenly become caregivers. Despite the best of intentions it is not always easy to communicate well under these circumstances, or find deep empathy for something one has never before experienced. When is it best to speak, and when to be silent? How can someone provide real comfort, and how can relationships with loved ones facing serious illness be enhanced in this most difficult time?

This book is about how to be an encouraging caregiver and friend under the most difficult circumstances, when the possibility of death is all too real The authors believe that open dialogue must not be avoided until the last minute when opportunities will be limited, but that caregivers and loved ones can embrace this time, mortal time, honestly as a way to sensitively and compassionately engage with those for whom a central fact of life is realized—that all of our lives are time-limited.

In The Art of Conversation Through Serious Illness, the authors consider how to best listen to and speak with one facing life-threatening illness, with lessons on being a primary conversation partner, becoming properly empathic and receiving empathy, maintaining everyday conversation, using platitudes appropriately, understanding healthy denial, and talking about dying. Offering bedside guidance usually only available to professionals and peppered with insightful anecdotes from the authors' own experiences, this gentle, succinct book is appropriate for anyone going through this uniquely difficult yet universal life experience.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is unique in that it includes health care professionals in the category of caregivers. Clinicians are not only having these conversations with their patients but are also advising and guiding family and friends who may feel uncomfortable and inexperienced with these important conversations. This book is an excellent resource not only for family and friend caregivers, but also for hospice and palliative medicine professionals and other medical colleagues." —JOURNAL OF PALLIATIVE MEDICINE

"Overall this is a thoughtful and compelling book that draws you into the narrative. if you are looking for an academic research-based tome to cite in your studies, then this is not the book for you. But if you value the fact that clinical practice really should be guided by the patient's experience and what we can learn from that, then you really should take a look at this small gem of a book." — Robert Becker, Senior Lecturer in Palliative Care, Staffordshire University Faculty of Health and Severn Hospice Shropshire, England

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Darrell A Owens, DNP (University of Washington Medicine)
Description: This is guide to communicating difficult information to people with life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses and their family members. The authors use examples of discussions with patients and families to demonstrate the different elements of these conversations.
Purpose: The purpose is to help caregivers best listen to and speak with someone facing a life-threatening illness. The authors state that the book is appropriate for anyone going through this "uniquely difficult, yet universal life experience." As the elder population continues to grow, so too does the number of people living with chronic, often life-limiting illness. For many of these people, advanced life-sustaining technology has low or no utility. The ability to discuss these and other issues that arise in life-threatening illness have created the need for this book. The authors' objectives, specifically to serve as a guide for anyone going through this situation, are only partially met. The book serves as an exceptional resource for professionals whose job requires communicating with people about their life-threatening illnesses. However, the content, while easy to read for a healthcare professional, may not be as easy to understand for patients or family members.
Audience: The authors intend this book for lay people, specifically patients and family members, as well as for health professionals who work with people experiencing life-threatening illness. Any health professional whose job requires communicating with people who are experiencing a life-threatening illness would benefit from reading this book. However, in my judgment, the book would be difficult to comprehend for someone who is not a clinician. The authors have extensive experience in the field.
Features: The book is divided into three parts. The first is a comprehensive overview of the many different meanings of issues that arise in life-threatening illness. The book is based on the concept of "mortal time," which is defined by the authors as the experience of human beings confronting the prospect of death. Part II explores the difficult conversations in terms of hope, empathy, and platitudes. Part III serves as a guide for those holding difficult conversations. The emphasis is on addressing suffering, resilience, and caring for the caregiver. Part I, which defines and explores mortal time, is the most useful section of the book, as new terms and concepts are explained. For experienced professionals, part III serves as a good review and reminder about holding difficult discussions and self care. The easy to read style, smaller pages, and succinct prose enable readers to read the book in a short period of time.
Assessment: This is a well-written guide for those who engage in difficult conversations with people experiencing life-threatening illness and their families. The concept of mortal time serves as a central theme that binds the entire book together. While there are numerous books related to difficult discussions in the setting of life-threatening illness, the succinct nature of this book makes it a more user-friendly guide.
Reviewer:Darrell A Owens, DNP, ARNP(University of Washington School of Nursing)
Description:This is guide to communicating difficult information to people with life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses and their family members. The authors use examples of discussions with patients and families to demonstrate the different elements of these conversations.
Purpose:The purpose is to help caregivers best listen to and speak with someone facing a life-threatening illness. The authors state that the book is appropriate for anyone going through this "uniquely difficult, yet universal life experience." As the elder population continues to grow, so too does the number of people living with chronic, often life-limiting illness. For many of these people, advanced life-sustaining technology has low or no utility. The ability to discuss these and other issues that arise in life-threatening illness have created the need for this book. The authors' objectives, specifically to serve as a guide for anyone going through this situation, are only partially met. The book serves as an exceptional resource for professionals whose job requires communicating with people about their life-threatening illnesses. However, the content, while easy to read for a healthcare professional, may not be as easy to understand for patients or family members.
Audience:The authors intend this book for lay people, specifically patients and family members, as well as for health professionals who work with people experiencing life-threatening illness. Any health professional whose job requires communicating with people who are experiencing a life-threatening illness would benefit from reading this book. However, in my judgment, the book would be difficult to comprehend for someone who is not a clinician. The authors have extensive experience in the field.
Features:The book is divided into three parts. The first is a comprehensive overview of the many different meanings of issues that arise in life-threatening illness. The book is based on the concept of "mortal time," which is defined by the authors as the experience of human beings confronting the prospect of death. Part II explores the difficult conversations in terms of hope, empathy, and platitudes. Part III serves as a guide for those holding difficult conversations. The emphasis is on addressing suffering, resilience, and caring for the caregiver. Part I, which defines and explores mortal time, is the most useful section of the book, as new terms and concepts are explained. For experienced professionals, part III serves as a good review and reminder about holding difficult discussions and self care. The easy to read style, smaller pages, and succinct prose enable readers to read the book in a short period of time.
Assessment:This is a well-written guide for those who engage in difficult conversations with people experiencing life-threatening illness and their families. The concept of mortal time serves as a central theme that binds the entire book together. While there are numerous books related to difficult discussions in the setting of life-threatening illness, the succinct nature of this book makes it a more user-friendly guide.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195389227
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/29/2010
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
1,237,182
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Richard P. McQuellon, Ph.D. is Professor of Medicine, Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
Michael A. Cowan, Ph.D. is Assistant to the President, Loyola University New Orleans, and Executive Director of Common Good, a network of civic organizations working to rebuild and transform post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

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