Published: March 31, 2019
Date read: 20/03/2019
"Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need."
Our modern age has given individuals freedom, including freedom from obligations to other generations. Families play a smaller role.
It is not weakness that makes older people need help, but the passing of time.
Average human life spans have been around 30 or less, up to a few hundred years ago. There were almost no elderly.
"To die of age is a rare, singular, and extraordinary death, and so much less natural than others: it is the last and extremest kind of dying." - Montaigne
"Human beings fail the way all complex systems fail: randomly and gradually."
Humans have a tipping point when they become frail.
Falling is the biggest danger for the elderly. Primary risk factors are poor balance, many prescription medications, and muscle weakness.
Being able to author your own life gives it worth.
The set of choices that the elderly can freely make decreases because of increased dependency. It's important for them (as well as anyone else) to be able to retain as much freedom as possible.
Top concerns of people with serious illness are: avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships, being mentally aware, not being a burden, achieving a sense that their life is complete.
Guides to "ars moriendi", the art of dying, used to be extremely popular in the Middle Ages.
"In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition, and language about our mortality and created a new difficulty for mankind: how to die."
Sometimes prolonging life is not worth the decrease in life quality.
"Block has a list of questions that she aims to cover with sick patients in the time before decisions have to be made: What do they understand their prognosis to be, what are their concerns about what lies ahead, what kinds of trade-offs are they willing to make, how do they want to spend their time if their health worsens, who do they want to make decisions if they can’t?"
It takes courage to confront the reality of mortality. More importantly, it takes courage to act on the truths we find.
The chance to shape one's life is essential to it's meaning.