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New book starts end-of-life conversation

BOOK REVIEW: This book is for everyone; patients, family, friends and doctors.
BOOK REVIEW: This book is for everyone; patients, family, friends and doctors. Allen & Unwin

NEW book release A Good Life to the End educates us on what happens when an older person nearing the end of their life goes to hospital, and about alternative choices.

"The way older people are dying at the moment, you really don't have a choice," the author of the ground breaking book, Professor Ken Hillman said.

"It's because we don't allow our society to think about the choices."

Prof Hillman has been an intensive care specialist for long enough to have seen some important changes in how older patients in ICU are treated.

"Our patients are getting older and older. That isn't a problem, but it's just that older people have got many chronic conditions and they are being medicalised with age related deterioration," Prof Hillman said.

"There's hardly a ward round goes by without one of us saying, 'please don't ever let this happen to me'. So, one has to ask why we are doing this to others?", he added.

Through his book Prof Hillman wants older and younger people to understand what actually happens when older people are admitted to hospital.

"Hospitals can do really great things, but they don't do very good things when you are very old; when you are 80 plus and have no reversible, age related deterioration in the body, and there are no machines or drugs that can make you better," he said.

"We are trying new systems to talk to older people in a far more honest and empathetic way and then trying to empower them to make their own choices about life.

"You can't do this in an academic way, you really need to talk to society."

This book is a step forward in the conversation. It is for everyone no matter what role they have in caring for older Australians; families, carers, aged care staff and clinicians. We are all know someone who knows someone who is dealing with frail, older Australians.

"When they get sick, they go into hospital and get put on his conveyor belt. They suffer enormously in the last few days and weeks of life," Prof Hillman.

"It's for everyone to start thinking about it and make choices, including having an Advanced Care Directive."

Topics:  book review palliative care wellbeing


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