Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tales of a Geriatrician: Book Review

1st Edition Published 30 November 2012.
2nd Edition Published 12 September 2014.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Now that I have the advantage of several decades of experience myself as a person in midlife, I find myself very interested in learning from people who have an expertise that differs from mine.

For this reason, I was eager to read David Bernstein's book, based on decades of practice as a geriatrician in Clearwater, Florida.

The long title of his book provides a great overview:

I've Got Some Good News and Some Bad News: You're Old.  Tales of a Geriatrician. What to Expect in Your 60s, 70s, 80s and Beyond. 

Bernstein sets up a number of frameworks that convey key principles of aging, health care, doctor-patient relationships and lifestyle choices that lead to longevity. Nevertheless, the heart of the book rests with the anecdotes he conveys about his patients and his relatives.

I was happy to meet several people who were very active in late adulthood.  Pat, Betsey and Trudy--three centenarians with very different experiences by age 100.  Susan, who goes on 11 day vacations by herself at 86.   Millie, who likes to go dancing at 87 and is shocked when she learns her hips won't comply as they used to.

The book also includes stories of people who face difficulties in late midlife or late adulthood. For example, Linda at age 64 had to find a path through several serious health crises.   At 86, Mel has to make tough choices between aggressive treatments that could affect his quality of life and palliative care.

Some of Bernstein's stories show how good health in late life is simply a matter of lifestyle choices, access to good health care, and a positive attitude.  Often maintaining good health as the body ages is a trickier proposition. His own father and two of his aunts have to negotiate rocky terrain.   He is very kind to show readers that even physicians can't be totally sure what health challenges will appear and how to best respond to them.  Part of aging is dealing with unknowns and making  judgement calls.

Even though the stories are the most compelling aspect, I was happy to read his 5 part recommendations for active aging, summarized by the acronym G.R.A.C.E (adapted from p. 12).

Goal--have a purpose in life.
Roots--have the right genetic make up.
Attitude--keep positive about life and also about being adventurous.
Companionship/Connections--love, intimacy, and bonds with family and friends enriches life.
Environment--leading a healthy life, paying attention to fitness, being cautious, and listening to the advice of health professionals.

For more information, check out Dr. Bernstein's webpage.
Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @DBernsteinMD
Or view some of his videos on YouTube, such as this one:


Books on Aging

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