The collection of books below are excellent resources for learning about End-of-Life issues. If you wish to purchase any of these books, clicking on the Amazon book link will take you to the Amazon website where Amazon will donate 5% of the purchase price to Hospice! Many of these books are also available for loan through our library at the Hospice Center on Route 11 or through your local library.
Being Mortal – Atul Gawande
In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending
Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
Extreme Measures – Jessica Zitter
In medical school, no one teaches you how to let a patient die.
Jessica Zitter became a doctor because she wanted to be a hero. She elected to specialize in critical care—to become an ICU physician—and imagined herself swooping in to rescue patients from the brink of death. But then during her first code she found herself cracking the ribs of a patient so old and frail it was unimaginable he would ever come back to life. She began to question her choice.
Extreme Measures charts Zitter’s journey from wanting to be one kind of hero to becoming another—a doctor who prioritizes the patient’s values and preferences in an environment where the default choice is the extreme use of technology. In our current medical culture, the old and the ill are put on what she terms the End-of-Life Conveyor belt. They are intubated, catheterized, and even shelved away in care facilities to suffer their final days alone, confused, and often in pain. In her work Zitter has learned what patients fear more than death itself: the prospect of dying badly. She builds bridges between patients and caregivers, formulates plans to allay patients’ pain and anxiety, and enlists the support of loved ones so that life can end well, even beautifully.
Filled with rich patient stories that make a compelling medical narrative, Extreme Measures enlarges the national conversation as it thoughtfully and compassionately examines an experience that defines being human.
When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
The Four Things That Matter Most – Ira Byock
Four simple phrases—“Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you”—carry enormous power to mend and nurture our relationships and inner lives. These four phrases and the sentiments they convey provide a path to emotional wellbeing, guiding us through interpersonal difficulties to life with integrity and grace.
Dr. Ira Byock, an international leader in palliative care, explains how we can practice these life-affirming words in our day-to-day lives. Too often we assume that the people we love really know that we love them. Dr. Byock demonstrates the value of “stating the obvious” and provides practical insights into the benefits of letting go of old grudges and toxic emotions. His stories help us to forgive, appreciate, love, and celebrate one another and live life more fully.
Dying Well – Ira Byock
Nobody should have to die in pain. Nobody should have to die alone.
This is Ira Byock’s dream, and he is dedicating his life to making it come true. Dying Well brings us to the homes and bedsides of families with whom Dr. Byock has worked, telling stories of love and reconciliation in the face of tragedy, pain, medical drama, and conflict. Through the true stories of patients, he shows us that a lot of important emotional work can be accomplished in the final months, weeks, and even days of life. It is a companion for families, showing them how to deal with doctors, how to talk to loved ones—and how to make the end of life as meaningful and enriching as the beginning.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Katy Butler
“A thoroughly researched and compelling mix of personal narrative and hard-nosed reporting that captures just how flawed care at the end of life has become.” (Abraham Verghese, T he New York Times Book Review).
This groundbreaking blend of memoir and investigative reporting–hailed as “Notable Book of the Year” by The New York Times–ponders the “Good Death” and the forces that stand in its way.
My Mother, Your Mother – Dennis McCullough
Thanks to advances in science and medicine, our parents are living longer than ever before. But our health-care system doesn’t perform as well when decline eventually sets in. We want to do our best as our loved ones face new complications—more diseases and disabilities—demanding further need for support and careful judgment, but the choices we have to make can seem overwhelming.
Family doctor and geriatrician Dennis McCullough recommends a new approach: Slow Medicine. Shaped by common sense and kindness, it advocates for careful anticipatory “attending” to an elder’s changing needs rather than waiting for crises that force acute medical interventions—thereby improving the quality of elders’ extended late lives without bankrupting their families financially or emotionally. This is not a plan for preparing for death; it is a plan for understanding, for caring, and for helping those you love live well during their final years.
Fumbling – Kerry Egan
In the spirit of Kathleen Norris and Anne Lamott, Kerry Egan describes her journey from grief to faith in this candid, spiritually profound account of her pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, the medieval pilgrim route through Northern Spain.
On Living – Kerry Egan
As a hospice chaplain, Kerry Egan didn’t offer sermons or prayers, unless they were requested; in fact, she found, the dying rarely want to talk about God, at least not overtly. Instead, she discovered she’d been granted an invaluable chance to witness firsthand what she calls the “spiritual work of dying”—the work of finding or making meaning of one’s life, the experiences it’s contained and the people who have touched it, the betrayals, wounds, unfinished business, and unrealized dreams. Instead of talking, she mainly listened: to stories of hope and regret, shame and pride, mystery and revelation and secrets held too long. Most of all, though, she listened as her patients talked about love—love for their children and partners and friends; love they didn’t know how to offer; love they gave unconditionally; love they, sometimes belatedly, learned to grant themselves.
The Art of Being a Healing Presence – James Miller
“The Art of Being a Healing Presence” shows how a difference can be made in the lives of others by learning to be present in a way that is healing, nurturing, and potentially even transforming. Seven steps to being a healing presence are explained, including opening onself, making the intention, preparing a space, honoring the other, offering what you have to give, receiving the gifts that come, and living a life of wholeness and balance. The book includes whole pages of quotations interspersed throughout. It’s full of essential information, yet still easy to read.
A Grief Observed – CS Lewisis
Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moment,” A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period: “Nothing will shake a man — or at any rate a man like me — out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.” This is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.
Final Gifts – Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelly
In this moving and compassionate classic—now updated with new material from the authors—hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley share their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life, drawn from more than twenty years’ experience tending the terminally ill.
Through their stories we come to appreciate the near-miraculous ways in which the dying communicate their needs, reveal their feelings, and even choreograph their own final moments; we also discover the gifts—of wisdom, faith, and love—that the dying leave for the living to share.
Finding Peace, Healing Grief – Louis LaGrand
Through Your Loss Comes The Strength to Grow
Whether the death of a loved one is sudden or follows a long battle with illness, there is no way to prepare for the loss of someone close. Grieving is painful, but you have a choice in how you cope with grief and – most importantly – how you adapt to the intense loss you’ve experienced.