end of life

In the U.S., 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day; by the time a person reaches 85, their chances of having dementia approach 50 percent. And the truth is, there is no cure, and none coming soon, despite the perpetual promises by pharmaceutical companies that they are just one more expensive study away from a pill.

Despite being a physician and a bioethicist, Tia Powell wasn't prepared to address the challenges she faced when her grandmother, and then her mother, were diagnosed with dementia; not to mention confronting the hard truth that her own odds aren't great.

With her book, "Dementia Reimagined," Dr. Powell's goal is to move the conversation away from an exclusive focus on cure to a genuine appreciation of care, what we can do for those who have dementia, and how to keep life meaningful and even joyful.

The new book, "The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life," is about living as well as possible for as long as possible and adapting successfully to change. Journalist and prominent end-of-life speaker Katy Butler shows how to thrive in later life, how to get the best from our health system, and how to make your own “good death” more likely.

The book is a handbook of step by step preparations; practical, communal, physical, and sometimes spiritual; to help us make the most of our remaining time, be it decades, years, or months.

As the American born daughter of immigrants, Dr. Sunita Puri knew from a young age that the gulf between her parents' experiences and her own was impossible to bridge, save for two elements: medicine and spirituality.

And it was that tension that eventually drew Puri, a passionate but unsatisfied medical student, to palliative medicine: a new specialty attempting to translate the border between medical intervention and quality-of-life care.

Puri's new book, "That Good Night," is a meditation on impermanence and the role of medicine in helping us to live and die well. Sunita Puri is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California, and medical director of palliative medicine at the Keck Hospital and Norris Cancer Center.

Samuel Harrington, MD, an honors graduate of Harvard College and the University of Wisconsin Medical School, concentrated his clinical practice at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC. There he served as a medical staff leader, a trustee, and as Sibley's representative to the Johns Hopkins Quality and Safety Board Committee. This work and his service on the board of trustees of a nonprofit hospice brought Dr. Harrington into the discussion of end-of-life medical care.

Most people say they would like to die quietly at home. But overly aggressive medical advice, coupled with an unrealistic sense of invincibility or overconfidence in our health-care system, results in the majority of elderly patients misguidedly dying in institutions. Many undergo painful procedures instead of having the better and more peaceful death they deserve.

Dr. Harrington's new book "At Peace: Choosing a Good Death After a Long Life" outlines specific active and passive steps that older patients and their health-care proxies can take to ensure loved ones live their last days comfortably at home and/or in hospice when further aggressive care is inappropriate.

New York Times columnist John Schwartz wrote his new book, "This Is The Year I Put My Financial Life In Order," for people willing to learn new money skills before it's too late.

Sharing both harrowing and hilarious personal stories, from his brush with financial ruin and bankruptcy in his thirties to his budgeted diet of cafeteria French fries and gravy, Schwartz discusses his journey to financial literacy, which he admittedly started a bit late.

Dr. Atul Gawande helped transform the conversation about aging and death in his book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

He is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a professor at Harvard Medical School, and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

The prospect of entering treatment is overwhelming for anyone facing a diagnosis of cancer. While patients have access to a vast amount of medical information online, this advice is often unreliable or confusing. In their new book, Living with Cancer, Drs. Vicki Jackson and David Ryan have crafted a step-by-step guide aimed at helping people grasp what’s happening to them while coping physically and emotionally with cancer treatment. 

The book is designed to be a resource full of patient stories, teaching patients and caregivers how to ask the right questions to get the best possible care - beginning at the moment of diagnosis. They also explain how to work with a team of doctors and nurse practitioners to minimize symptoms and side effects while living as fully as possible in the face of cancer.

In On My Own, beloved NPR radio host Diane Rehm speaks out about the long drawn-out death (from Parkinson’s) of her husband of fifty-four years, and of her struggle to reconstruct her life without him.

With John gone, Diane was indeed “on her own,” coping with the inevitable practical issues and, more important, with the profoundly emotional ones. What to do, how to react, reaching out again into the world—struggling to create a new reality for herself while clinging to memories of the past. Her focus is on her own roller-coaster experiences, but she has also solicited the moving stories of such recently widowed friends as Roger Mudd and Susan Stamberg, which work to expose the reader to a remarkable range of reactions to the death of a spouse.

Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter is one of only a handful of physicians in the United States double board certified to practice both pulmonary/critical care medicine AND palliative care medicine. In other words, she’s the doctor who will save you when you are admitted to the ICU with a gunshot wound, but she is also the doctor who can help you navigate a peaceful and easy way to the end when the end really arrives.

In her new book - Extreme Measures – we learn about a framework for a better way to exit life that will change our medical culture at the deepest level, and will perhaps leave you pondering, when ‘the end is near’, in our zeal to save life, are we often just worsening death?

  In The Violet Hour, Katie Roiphe takes an unexpected and liberating approach to the most unavoidable of subjects. 

She investigates the last days of six great thinkers, writers, and artists as they come to terms with the reality of approaching death, or what T. S. Eliot called “the evening hour that strives Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea.”

Katie Roiphe will be in conversation with Kate Bolick as part of The Mount's Touchstones series on 8/18.