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Listen to a short interview with Dr. Muriel Gillick
Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane
You've argued politics with your aunt since high school, but failing eyesight now prevents her from keeping current with the newspaper. Your mother fractured her hip last year and is confined to a wheelchair. Your father has Alzheimer's and only occasionally recognizes you.
Someday, as Muriel Gillick points out in this important yet unsettling book, you too will be old. And no matter what vitamin regimen you're on now, you will likely one day find yourself sick or frail. How do you prepare? What will you need?
With passion and compassion, Gillick chronicles the stories of elders who have struggled with housing options, with medical care decisions, and with finding meaning in life. Skillfully incorporating insights from medicine, health policy, and economics, she lays out action plans for individuals and for communities. In addition to doing all we can to maintain our health, we must vote and organize--for housing choices that consider autonomy as well as safety, for employment that utilizes the skills and wisdom of the elderly, and for better management of disability and chronic disease.
Most provocatively, Gillick argues against desperate attempts to cure the incurable. Care should focus on quality of life, not whether it can be prolonged at any cost.
"A good old age," writes Gillick, "is within our grasp." But we must reach in the right direction.
Americans, [Gillick] asserts, squander resources on quackery and on futile but expensive treatments for people approaching the end of their lives, and risk not leaving enough money for more beneficial care....Gillick's book raises important issues in a lucid and accessible style. The reader cannot help feeling that the problems of aging and longevity could be effectively dealt with by informed and intelligent political leadership.
— John Grimley Evans
[Gillick] challenges her generation to embrace the inevitability of aging and to make the most of it.
— Tom Graham
It is not easy to review a book that is as good as this one as there is so much to say that is positive about this book and almost nothing by way of criticism. ...[T]his humane and compassionate book captures and retains the reader's interest throughout. It examines the denial of ageing and the associated "dangerous fantasies": if we continue to deny the realities of old age, we will, as a society, put our money into futile and expensive treatments, and will not have money left over to provide the beneficial care that older people actually need. It goes on to look at all the things that can contribute to a best possible old age, including appropriate medical care, housing support, a sense of purpose and meaningful activities. It does this for each segment of the older population, comprising "the robust, the frail and the dying." Best of all, it does all this with an impeccable blend of analysis, hard evidence and narrative about the lives of real people...In sum, this is a book that should be read by everyone who is interested in old age, and particularly, by those who allocate resources or deliver care.
— Ros Levenson
This is quite an amazing book. It ranks at the top of my "most important books to read" list—for people of all ages and, most particularly, those with political power. Gillick confronts tough topics with gentle wisdom. Nursing homes, right-to-life issues for the aging, Medicare morass. She lays bare painful situations and moral dilemmas and offers sound, practical advice to the anguished plea, "But what can we do?" All this and it is easy to read...Gillick is on the cutting edge of issues that our entire society must face. For Boomers, for Gen X and Gen Y, for politicians who determine how we spend tax dollars on Medicare and health funding, this is a must-read book.
— Joan Ruddiman
Gillick's reasoning is so efficient and well placed, and she illustrates it so well with cases...Her detailed descriptions are dazzling in their sensibleness...[She] is the informed, compassionate, realistic gerontologist you want for your grandmother, your mother, and eventually—if she is not too old by then—yourself.
— Elissa Ely
Gillick’s book could not appear at a better time. We should send a copy to every member of Congress, as well as to all those doctors peddling bogus antiaging remedies. Readers need her message more than ever, but, alas, they seem unlikely to hear it at all as they rush to pick up prescriptions for human growth hormone, antioxidants, or other “dangerous fantasies” that Gillick decries.
— Harry R. Moody
— Elissa Ely
1. An Ounce of Prevention?
2. When Less Is More
3. Doing the Right Thing Near the End
4. The Trouble with Medicare
5. Is a Nursing Home in Your Future?
6. Assisted Living: Boon or Boondoggle?
7. The Lure of Immortality
8. Making the Most of the Retirement Years
Appendix: Resources and References
Posted January 13, 2010
No text was provided for this review.