Dennis McCullough, M.D., explores the concept of slow medicine in his book, “My Mother, Your Mother.” According to McCullough, slow medicine is a movement to keep elders safe and comfortable while preserving their quality of life. It requires a “special commitment undertaken by families and health professionals working together.”
The concept of slow medicine focuses on elders at age 80 and beyond. Millions of families are coping with elder care needs without sufficient resources or professional advocates. By being aware of an elder’s changing needs, a medical crisis no longer dictates care. Slower decision making allows physicians to respect what the patient really wants and honor the normal aging process.
Slow medicine is a “commitment to care for those weakest among us in a way we would want to be cared for ourselves.” McCullough identifies five principles as a guide to enriching and supporting an elder’s life to the end.
I. We must understand our parents and other elders deeply.
Family and caregivers must always strive to see the person first when considering health care needs and decisions.
II. We must accept the need for interdependence and build mutual trust.
A sudden need for dependency is difficult for elders. Manage the pressures of decision making. Trust must be balanced by the need for some degree of intervention.
III. We must learn to communicate well and with patience.
Good communication requires a willingness to hear what is actually said, taking notes, and asking questions. Realize there may be many things unsaid because of fear, confusion, or uncertainty.
IV. We need steadfast advocacy.
Developing mutual trust between patients and physicians provides the foundation for care that elders need along their journey of later life.
V. We must maintain an attitude of kindness no matter what.
Elders are dependent on their caregivers. Kindness and patience is necessary when dealing with the “seemingly endless cycle of chores.”