My Dad’s a Goldfish – if only I’d known

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I’m currently reading Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande.

Here’s a quote from the back of the book blurb “…what it’s like to get old and die, how medicine has changed this and how it hasn’t, where our ideas on death have gone wrong. The systems that being-mortal-illnessmedicine-and-what-matters-in-the-endwe have put in place to manage our mortality are manifestly failing, but, as Gawande reveals, it doesn’t have to be this way. The ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death, but a good life – all the way to the end.”

I’m only half way through it yet and his expose of modern medicine’s ‘we’ll fix it’ approach is depressing (though doesn’t surprise me and although Gawande is writing about USA, it is the same here in the UK). There’s such ignorance of what people really want at the end of life and tremendous barriers put up whenever people do try to recreate the home environment. It’s very readable and I highly recommend it.

The reason for my ‘if only I’d known’ comes from a story about an elderly couple, Bella and Felix. While eating lunch, Bella begins to choke. Felix, a retired geriatrician explains. “As you get older, the lordosis [I had to look it up: the term lordosis refers to the normal inward curvature of the lumbar and cervical regions of the human spine] of your spine tips your head forward,” he said. “So when you look straight ahead it’s like looking up at the ceiling for anyone else. Try to swallow while looking up…”

If only I’d known to encourage the Goldfish to look down when eating my previous post on swallowing might have been different.

Still, no acquired knowledge is ever wasted: I’ll store this little nugget for when I get old.

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37 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – if only I’d known

    • Blimey Ruth you had the courage to say what I only thought…. Sorry Mary but laughter is the best medicine!!!

      PS another great post… I always look forward to them

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think I might have put my reply to Ruth in the wrong box so hope this is in reply to you, Paul – see it’s happening already! Yes, you do have to keep laughing and I’m glad you enjoy the posts.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I better write it down somewhere – other than on a blog post – so I remember! You are right, though, Ruth, I may end up like dad – though absolutely no one else in the family had dementia and they all lived long lives so maybe I’ll escape.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I think by now that Mary knows that I always just jump right in and say what I’m thinking. I don’t mean to offend her and she knows that. Alzheimer’s and Dementia aren’t nice illnesses to deal with as unfortunately we’ve both lost parents to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think a sense of humour is essential and mine is still intact -just! So Here’s a thought if I get dementia I want it to be vascular because no one will know what is causing changes in my presentation. That means I will be able to be waited on hand and foot and choose when I’m lucid!

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    • Wish it worked like that, Paul, but unfortunately the lucidity comes and goes. I think the best thing about vascular dementia is that the person who has it seems to retain their personality, which in dad’s case meant he kept his sense of humour – most of the time.
      Humans seem to be able to find humour in the blackest of situations – though often when looking back on soemthing!

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  3. This is so interesting… I really wish we had known this too. They told us that my father had “forgotten” how to swallow, but sometimes he ate a lot, especially when we gave his food on a tray where he could hunch over it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such a little thing to know but which could make a big difference to the person and the families. I think Being Mortal should be prescribed reading for everyone working in the health/social care sectors.

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  4. So timely for me to read. My great aunt–I was about to write elderly but realized that in fact she is only two years older than I am!–has been in the hospital for the last month in her hometown in Florida and on life support for most of that time. The quandary is that she is mildly mentally handicapped and did not prepare a directive. I am the only family in touch with her and I have only met her twice although she was in the habit of calling texting on a daily basis. I fear that her life is ending in a difficult way but am powerless to help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m so sorry, Alice – like you don’t have enough on your plate without this to worry about. It’s horrible when you feel so helpless and powerless. I’m assuming she is unaware of what is happening – hope so anyway. I guess you have to hope it will be over soon. Thinking of you.

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  5. This is a wonderful book, I have been recommending it to friends giving copies to my family. My husband’s copy remains firmly closed, like most people he is unable to believe that the subject is less scary when you know more about it.

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  6. I had no idea about Lordosis, thank you for this Mary. It makes me wonder as since my mother had her stroke, she still has issues with her throat and coughing. What an interesting and helpful book. I agree, we need to do much better to the end of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for dropping by, Sherri and I’m glad you foudn the post helpful. I really recommend Being Mortal. It is very readable and has a lot of important things to say about caring for elderly people (important but not always good). I hope your mother is getting on all right.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Mary. A great recommendation. And thank you for asking about my mother. She’s doing really well, a year now since her stroke. Still tired and those throat issues, but she is driving and enjoying her life despite the tiredness…we are all very grateful… xxx

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  7. I liked the quote from the book’s blurb, particularly the bit about the goal being a good life all the way to the end. I’m sorry the tip about swallowing come a little too late to help in the case of your father. I’m glad you wrote about it here nonetheless, Mary. It sounds like the kind of information that many others may also find useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I read the book Being Mortal about a year ago, and then encouraged everyone in my family to do so. I found it brilliant. And yes, I think we shouldn’t spend our time making sure our loved ones stay alive, no matter what, but that while they’re alive, they’re comfortable and happy. Not easy, I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to know you are a fan of Being Mortal. I would like every health professional and care worker in the world to read it! I’m going to read some of his other books but I think Being Mortal is probably the most relevant and I wish I’d found it a few years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. And that is exactly why your book will be so valuable. You will help others to know so they will not have to ever think back and say, “If only I’d known”. As of last week in the USA, Gawande may have to write a new book in regard to our health care (or future total lack of it) here in the US. Methinks some of our elected officials need a better understanding of the realities of life and death.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Clare. I have to say I really can’t get my head round the fact that anyone can think it is right that poor people can’t access health care. Someone posted an invoice for five nights in an American hospital and I’m still reeling at the costs. And we’ve got that May woman chuntering on about a new mental health act in the UK – like she cares! She makes Margaret Thatcher look like a pussy cat. Feeling very cross 😦

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