Books & Plays

You and Your Aging Parents: The American Bar Association Guide to Legal, Financial, and Health Care Issues

A question and answer format put together by the American Bar Association; a wonderful generic resource. Published by Oxford University Press.

The Best Possible Care by Ira Byock.

The Four Things That Matter Most by Ira Byock, M.D. 

The author, an international leader in palliative care, explains what words are most important to speak and hear at all times and especially at life and death moments: “Please forgive me … I forgive you … Thank you … and I love you.” Rather than holding back out of fear or discomfort, the author explains how expressing these feelings assist both the living and those dying to let go of old grudges and fears that separate us from those we love.

Dying Well by Ira Byock, M.D.

The author is past President of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care and a gifted storyteller. He begins his account of dying well by telling about his father’s terminal illness and then describes the process of decline and loss of capacity that await most of us. In doing so, Dr. Byock tells the reader stories of those he has treated to illuminate with empathy how both patients and loved ones can meet this life event in a caring and supportive way. Published by Penguin Books.

 Circles by Fayegail Mandell Bisaccia.

Circles is a book of comfort, a companion on the journey of conscious grief and healing. Its compelling prayers invite the reader to an unexpected sense of peace around matters often fraught with confusion, fear and tension. Each prayer is written as an expression of Oneness, with the intent to engage what is spiritual in each reader.

Dancing in My Mother’s Slippers: A Journey of Grief and Healing by Fayegail Mandell Bisaccia

This journal/memoir begins as Fayegail’s mother is diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  It charts the final months of her mother’s life and then the grief Fayegail experiences in losing a parent with whom she shared a rich and caring friendship. In the end, she realizes one does not “get over” grief, but rather integrates it into one’s life.  Fayegail encourages us to start conversations now which will open our hearts to healing communication with both our parents and with our children as we ask the end-of-life questions of ourselves.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door:  Our Parents, Their Doctors, and a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler.

This encyclopedic exploration of the end of life interweaves three different narratives:  an intimate family memoir; a history of medical technology focused on the cardiac pacemaker; and the protocols of the medical system today, which too often undermine the possibility of a good death for ourselves or loved ones.  After Butler’s father’s pacemaker kept him alive long years after his mind was gone, her exhausted mother refused open-heart surgery and died on her own terms.  A gifted journalist, Butler offers the story of her parents’ final years as heartfelt evidence for a revision in our collective attitude toward dying and a plea for a return to meaningful rituals of death.

The End-of-Life Advisor: Personal, Legal, and Medical Considerations for a Peaceful, Dignified Death by Susan Dolan, R.N., J.D. and Audrey Vizzard, R.N., Ed.D.

This mother/daughter team offers practical step-by-step advice and guidance to improve the last days of life. Both authors are experienced hospice volunteers with backgrounds in nursing, the law and psychology.

A Better Way of Dying by Jeanne Fitzpatrick, M.D. and Eileen Fitzpatrick, J.D. 

Two sisters, one an emergency room physician and the other a practicing attorney, explain some of the problems that arise at the end of life, even for those who have written a living will. They offer a step-by-step plan to provide caregivers clear and legally binding instructions for one’s end of life care. Published by Penguin Books.

Last Rights: Rescuing the End-of-Life from the Medical System by Stephen Kiernan.

The author was featured in the film Consider the Conversation. In this book he describes the desperate efforts of medical professionals to prolong life at any cost, frequently leaving the dying isolated and miserable. How to plan for a meaningful and pain-free for yourself and loved ones can be found in these pages.

King Lear by William Shakespeare.

One of the greatest plays in Western Literature, this family tragedy charts the disastrous consequences of the failure communicate at the end of life.  As an absolute monarch, it never occurs to Lear to have a conversation about his preferences before relinquishing the throne! The karmic suffering his self-absorption brings on does finally open his heart, thus illustrating the possibility for growth at the end of life.

Caregiving: Hospice-Proven Techniques for Healing Body and Soul by Doug C. Smith

Doug Smith is a leading expert in hospice care. In this book he offers practical advice for caregivers to assist in helping the patient who is very ill and often debilitated. He describes techniques that will assist the caregiver and patient during these difficult days.

Entering the Blue Stone by Molly Best Tinsley

The General struggles to maintain his invulnerable façade against Parkinson’s disease; his wife manifests dementia. Their three grown children, desperate to save the situation, convince themselves of the perfect solution:  an upscale retirement community.  But as soon as their parents have been resettled within its walls, the many imperfections of its system of care begin to appear.  This memoir redefines our assumptions about happy endings and explores the balance between vigilance at the end of life and letting go.

The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan For End-of-Life Care by Angelo Volandes, MD

Dr. Angelo E. Volandes believes that a life well-lived deserves a good ending. Through the stories of seven patients and seven very different end-of-life experiences, he demonstrates that what people with a serious illness, who are approaching the end of their lives, need most is not new technologies but one simple thing: The Conversation. He argues for a radical re-envisioning of the patient-doctor relationship and offers ways for patients and their families to talk about this difficult issue to ensure that patients will be at the center and in charge of their medical care.

To listen to an audio description of the book, click here.

What Obituaries Don’t Tell You by Kathryn Weymouth, PhD

This book is a compilation of interviews with people who have lost a loved one and professionals who work with terminally ill patients and their families before, during, and after death.

Kathryn Weymouth earned her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Sociology at Linfield College with a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center (now Saybrook University) in San Francisco. She has spent her entire career learning safe and effective ways to facilitate healing at all levels of body, mind, and spirit and works with high-functioning individuals who are ready to deal with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues which are holding them back from being as happy and fulfilled as they have the potential to be.