One Family's Story
As parents, grandparents and great-grandparents live longer and healthier lives, younger generations will witness – and perhaps participate in – the changes and the transitions that come with extended "old age." It’s an extraordinary opportunity – but one that many of us fear.
America is an unusually age-segregated and death-phobic society. An aging society can heighten fears. Families already face practical issues around caring for today’s older members. But just as challenging can be understanding aging as our loved ones experience it. And reflecting on our own aging and decline can be deeply emotional and profoundly disturbing.
In 2009, filmmaker Dakin Henderson faced his own fears in a film called What Time Is Left. What began as a portrait of his two grandmothers became a year-long meditation on life, love, identity and death. In tender, difficult and sometimes humorous moments, the Henderson/Gieg family opens their lives. Dr. Dennis McCullough, geriatrician and author of My Mother, Your Mother, guides Dakin and his family through ‘slow medicine’ as a new way of thinking about care at the end of life.
Follow Dakin’s Story…
Being There – It’s only natural, I was told as a kid, that grandparents die. But ever since my grandmother Polly slipped into dementia, I have been struggling to come to grips with our relationship. The grandma I knew is gone… yet she lingers. Grandma Polly showed me how complex the end of life can be.
Slow Medicine - Traditional medical care is designed to cure…and cure and cure and cure. It often refuses to let us go gently. But is the cost sometimes too high – personally and financially? My grandfather chose a different path.
The Conversation - Most of us want to avoid thinking about the end. Not my grandmother Edie. She knows how she wants to live…and how she wants to go out. My grandmother insists we all listen.
"My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing 'Slow Medicine' - the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones", by Dennis McCullough, M.D., Harper Collins, February 5, 2008
“The Way We Age Now – Medicine has increased the ranks of the elderly. Can it make old age any easier?”, by Atul Gawande, The New Yorker, April 30, 2007
“For the Very Old, A Dose of 'Slow Medicine'", by Abigail Zuger, M.D, The New York Times, February 26, 2008
“How Doctors Die”, by Ken Murray, Zócalo Public Square, November 30, 2011