Finish Strong

By David Krogh

Former ER and ICU Nurse/Physicians Assistant Barbara Coombs Lee explains how to take charge of your end of life care and avoid suffering and stress in her book, Finish Strong: Putting Your Priorities First at Life’s End. The book is a 2022 update of the 2019 edition of Finish Strong. According to the author and Haider Warraich MD, there is a movement afoot regarding end-of-life care for doctors to be partners with their patients and for the patients to be empowered to set their own paths regarding end of life matters. This is the direction Finish Strong pursues.

Lee is an Oregonian and nurse-turned-lawyer-turned author and advocate. She co-authored Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act in 1994 and is currently President/Emerita of Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit organization that “affirms life and accepts the inevitability of death, embraces expanded options for compassionate dying and empowers everyone to choose end of life care that reflects their values, priorities, and beliefs.” Compassion and Choices is also this book’s publisher.

Finish Strong addresses a subject area that most people are uncomfortable dealing with or talking about. To help the reader learn that it is okay to talk about death and dying, Lee uses actual first person stories and other examples. In doing so, it could help a person (and their family members) to be better prepared and enjoy life more in the meantime.

Finish Strong identifies several areas of concern that people should address as part of their end-of-life planning. For one thing, it is important to define one’s priorities early and to update them as situations evolve. It is also imperative to partner with your doctor so that your desires are considered as part of any care or anticipated treatment. In alignment with this premise, the book discusses over treatment and that a person often benefits most via minimal treatment (also called “slow medicine”), allowing the body’s own healing processes to come into play as opposed to over medication.

The book also talks about hospice and its importance. Hospice is defined as “a shift in focus, from cure to comfort.” But it’s not a place, like the home or a hospital. Rather, it’s a concept of care usually associated with end-of-life patients, but not necessarily always so. Determining the appropriate type of hospice in advance, in conjunction with its location, is one other type of end-of-life planning tool that will help to create peace of mind for those involved. 

Other issues and tools are addressed, including advance directives and when to do them, planning around dementia, the involvement of religion and cultural and racial aspects. All in all, this book identifies quite a lot to be considered. But, as is discussed in the book’s beginning, early end-of-life planning will greatly reduce the stress of all parties and provide a measure of certainty and comfort. As the author states within the book, “I hope readers come away with a sense of their own authority; feeling empowered to ask questions, test assumptions and decide on a course of treatment that honors the character and meaning of their lives.”

Finish Strong: Putting Your Priorities First at Life’s End is available at compassionandchoices.org/finish-strong/about-the-book and through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powell’s Books.

Finish Strong

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