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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 327

The story Being Mortal was written by Atul Gawande. It is an account of the treatment and care provided to the elderly. In the 1900s, the elderly in the United States were institutionalized in houses for the poor, which provided limited care; hence, accelerating poor health and death among the elderly. Hospitals were mainly used as custodial institutions before the mid-nineteenth century. It is not until after World War II that hospitals were equipped with monitoring equipment and antibiotics. Whenever old people were hospitalized, they were considered to be bothersome by the medical staff. It was not until the government started offering grants that many hospitals opened their doors to treating the elderly.

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Dr. Gawande, a general surgeon, took interest in their treatment and care. In his story, he recounts his experiences with elderly patients he has treated, including his own father. He further recounts his encounters with younger patients who suffered from terminal illnesses. He establishes that once someone is put in a nursing home, the wishes, desires, and dreams of such an individual no longer matter. He affirms that there are other like-minded professionals within the healthcare sector who are focused on changing things.

Gawande takes a wide look at assisted living models where the elderly have improved care, living in a manner that falls beween a nursing home and independent living. He introduces Bill Thomas, who came up with a radical idea while serving as a young doctor in the early 1990s. In his idea, he emphasized that old people should be treated like any other person. In the upstate New York nursing home where he was the medical director, Thomas planted a garden for the elderly to tend, and also introduced an on-site daycare where they could interact with children. He also made an order for one hundred parakeets so that they could fill the area with lovely music. The use of sedatives and the death rate within the nursing home decreased rapidly.

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