I’ve been a journalist for more than 40 years, including five years as a housing columnist for The New York Times; and a hospice volunteer with Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey since 2010. My essays have appeared in several medical humanities publications, including Pulse—Voices from the Heart of Medicine; KevinMD; Life Matters Media; Generations Beat Online; and the Gold Foundation. An avid theater and film fan, I was a co-founder and for five years the executive director of a film festival in my community, whose theme is “Activism: Making Change.” It routinely draws an audience of thousands every November.
People often ask me whether I find it depressing to write about the last chapters of life and their related issues. The subject matter undoubtedly is as serious as a, well, heart attack. But the short answer is, no I don’t. Probably the biggest reason: the people making inroads in this realm are simply amazing. They have a clear vision of what the best of health care can look like. Big-hearted, super-smart, passionate about their work, insightful, with great energy and even greater senses of humor, they are absolutely inspiring. I’ve been privileged to be in their company.
Another reason: the seeds for better care have already been planted. “Last Comforts: Notes from the Forefront of Late-Life Care” spotlights many of the innovations in the field that can make an enormous difference for all of us. But it will be up to us as consumers and patients to make our voices heard and insist on better care. I’m confident that in time my fellow baby boomers will advocate not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but also for the broader community.
Recognition for “Last Comforts” — From a Peer
This was a nice way to start 2021: There’s no dearth of books, articles and blog posts or films, documentaries and videos about elderhood, serious illness and end-of-life issues, but I’d never come across any from the perspective I know so well: that of another hospice volunteer. So I was eager to read Steve Litwer’s new book, “The Music Between Us: Memoir of a Bedside Musician.” He’s read mine, and has done a terrific review and interview with me about it, here.
At the Latest ‘Conversation of Your Life’ Event
Thank you to New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and to Hunterdon Hospice for sponsoring a lively Conversation of Your Life talk at the Flemington, N>J> Library on May 29, 2019. Always great to talk to people about their hopes, fears and frustrations about care in the event of serious illness. And the importance of communicating clearly with family and friends about it in case people can’t speak for themselves.
Delighted to meet folks from Hunterdon Hospice at this event. Here are a couple of them, with me (I’m on left in the picture.)
Happy Holidays! All About the Book, on Radio
In case you missed it, I had the honor of being interviewed by Shelli Sonstein for her Sonstein Sundays radio show on WAXQ FM. It aired this morning (12/17/17), and it’s about 12 minutes long. You can listen to it here:
Post-Thanksgiving 2017: A Busy Week Centered on Those Important Conversations!
I’m always grateful for new adventures stemming from publishing the book and the blog. It’s such a joy to meet people who are so dedicated to their work in palliative care, hospice and elder care. Not to mention the wonderful folks who come to these events with open hearts and minds. In the course of one busy week, I had the opportunity to do three “Conversation of Your Life” presentations: at the Bergenfield, NJ library…
…and at the fabulous Hamilton Senior Center (shown), and at the Hopewell Borough, NJ town hall. These two were sponsored by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute.
Also had a chance to share a moment with Dr. Ira Byock, after his terrific talk about “The Four Things That Matter Most,” at the West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, NJ, sponsored by the Valley Health System. Inspiring, as always.
* * *
I’m honored to be a 2017 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards) silver medalist!
Always nice to get recognition from a home town newspaper! https://www.teaneckindependent.com/2017-0419-rand
Award Season, May 2017!
Got my silver medal at a terrific IPPY event at the Copacabana in New York City on May 30th, 2017.
Also honored as a finalist in the 8th annual International Book Awards, announced by AmericanBookFest.com this month.
About the Book Cover
You’ll find this painting, entitled “Embrace,” on the cover of “Last Comforts: Notes From the Forefront of Late-Life Care.” I loved it from the moment I first saw it, when it was featured in the April 4, 2014 edition of the online publication “Pulse – Voices from the Heart of Medicine.” To me, it is full of life, color and the warmth of human attachment and as such represents the kindness, compassion and team effort that are the hallmarks of excellent late-life care.
The story behind the painting is striking, too. It came from Jessica Liu, an Internal Medicine resident physician at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California. Liu had graduated from the University of California, Davis School of Medicine where she had served as a co-director of the Willow Student-Run Free Clinic.
This Clinic holds a weekly Wellness Night at Sacramento’s local Salvation Army, where temporary residents of the shelter gather to draw, paint and meditate, easing some of the stresses of homelessness. Liu sat and painted alongside the residents, marveling at the way the activity led to open dialogue among strangers and building a sense of community in this vulnerable population. She was moved by people’s stories, journeys, struggles and – not least – their talent.
Residents and student doctors alike come and go — both were transient populations — Liu told me, but this experience gave her a lasting appreciation for a holistic approach toward healing.
The painting was subsequently sold as part of a fundraiser for the Clinic. I am grateful to Liu as well as to Angela Rodgers, who now owns the painting, for permitting me to use it as the cover of my book.