Takeaways from “The Aged Care Book” by Dr Sebastian Rees

Coined as a “Guidebook for Families of those in Old Age” it may not seem immediately apparent why I personally would read this book, except the healthcare interest.

So here are my disclosures:

(1) I know the author Dr Sebastian Rees – a truly great human that didn’t even ask me to buy the book and does not know I am writing this.

(2) Professionally I am currently working with aged care organisations, providers and whether by fate or not, ageing is a topic that has increasingly become more visible to me and I think anyone that reads this will find benefit.

(3) I love writing and hope to finish by book at some stage (based on Mr. Perfect and mental health) so I figured by reading this I would be inspired (I was by the way).

Although primarily aimed at families the book early on states: “Indeed, this book can be read by anyone, at any time, to encourage us to become more comfortable talking and thinking about old age, death and dying”.

As I read the book I frantically underlined the key takeaways and quotes that hit me. There were many, those with thought and depth, and those that were helpful and practical such as checklists and easy to understand education. Hopefully they will appeal to you too and give you some food for thought:

  • “It is only through open communication and a willingness on both sides to talk about death and dying that we will see a shift in the focus of medical care in older people, from life prolonging to life restoring”.
  • Caring for the Elderly: “Despite this transition [moving to an aged care facility] being a potentially difficult time for older people and their families, the overall goal should be remembered: to maintain the best quality of life for the older person”.
  • “Remember that your role in the care of your elderly family member goes much further than solely being a physical support. One of the greatest things that you can offer your family member is the relationship you have developed over a lifetime”.
  • Nelson Mandela quote: “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires”.
  • “Death is not an illness. It should be planned for, anticipated and celebrated”.
  • On communication, miscommunication and feelings of guilt: “It is also possible that the reality of death acts as a reminder of our own mortality”.
  • On family members sharing their feelings: “Sharing our vulnerability with those we trust can be an extremely liberating and therapeutic process. It can result in deeper connections with families and friends and can strengthen relationships”.
  • “We do not need to be afraid of death. Instead, acceptance that we will die allows us to relinquish denial of the situation and become more comfortable with the idea that his forms a natural stage of our lives”.
  • “Often, by having discussions and making plans in advance, you will find yourself more comfortable with what is to come…”
  • “In a world where doctors and medicine seem to be able to achieve almost anything, death still remains a final reality that everyone must eventually accept”.
  • “Accepting that death is a natural way of relieving possible suffering and incapacity may be difficult to comprehend but needs to form part of our thinking”.
  • “Unlike pathological causes of death, old age death is generally a slower, more complex process, with many more stages over time in its progression”.
  • “Rather than pursuing these life prolonging acts when someone is nearing the very end of their life, this can be a time for families to assist the dying to prepare and ‘let go’”.
  • “The maintenance of dignity and retaining some sense of control are the ideal of good palliative care and should be the cornerstone of the care plan developed with a patient, medical team and family”.
  • Advance Care Plans are often thought about too late – address them early.
  • Generally the final human desire of a family member of a dying person is for them to be as comfortable as possible, so always have this is as your anchor to form your decision-making.
  • As a family member, always get the support you need at this time, whether that be counselling, writing, mindfulness, talking to others etc.
  • “As an aged care GP I have learned more from my patients and their families than from textbooks”.
  • “I have often felt that caring for older people at the end of life is an enormous privilege”.
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