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.