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Levin, a social documentary photographer, immersed herself with the Class of 2001 in the anatomy course at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Her photographs of cadavers, students and instructors are prefaced by a foreword by physician-writer Abraham Verghese. He describes the rite of passage of anatomical dissection: "The living studying the dead. The dead instructing the living." (p. 9)
Interspersed with the full-color images are journal entries by 11 medical students and several artistic anatomic illustrations by 3 of the students. The journal entries and photographs are organized temporally, from the introduction to the dissection lab to the final exam and student-organized memorial service. The end of the book includes the interests and brief biographies of the 11 students and a final dedication by Levin of the book to those who donated their bodies: "I have never before witnessed a gift that is honored, respected, and consumed so completely."
The photographs are not for the squeamish. For example, the double amputee pelvis prosection on page 102, or the multiple images of flayed skin, bits and pieces, or limbs tied to supports provide an insider’s view of an anatomy course. Many of the images show the living in motion: translucent images of students in time-lapse swirl near the static cadavers. Other images conjure the once-upon-a-time personhood of the dead: pink fingernail polish on a female cadaver or a heart palmed by a student. The intensity of the student experience is well documented, as is the relaxed atmosphere that inevitably develops as students become accustomed to the experience of dissection.
The student journal entries are sensitive and thoughtful. Students comment on the intersections of daily living, home life, and their own bodies and bodily functions with what they are learning in the classroom. Particular discomfort regarding certain dissections, such as the pelvic region, are acknowledged. Even though students note growing immunity to the dissection experience, such comments reflect insight into professionalism and defense systems. Gallows humor and uneasiness with such humor is explored by Rebecca (p 62) after she sings "New York, New York" to the roomful of cadavers. Forensic clues about the cause of death for a particular cadaver renew the sense for students that this was once a living, feeling person.
The intense, long hours required for understanding and memorizing the material are clearly evident, but ultimately, these students realize they are given a truly special opportunity: "I began to love learning the material just for the sake of learning. Anatomy no longer felt like a burden, but rather a gift." (David, p. 119) Relationships explored include those of student with cadaver (particularly respect/disrespect, ownership and protection), life with death, and those who have had the experience of dissection with those who never will.
Crossing Over presents "extended, richly detailed, multiperspectival case narratives" of 20 dying patients served by the Hospice of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania and the Palliative Care Service of Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. These complex narratives (each written by a single author) reveal the patient’s story from many points of view, including those of family members and professional caregivers.
The authors explain how this project differs from recent books of clinical narratives by Timothy Quill (A Midwife Through the Dying Process, 1996), Ira Byock (Dying Well: The Prospect of Growth at the End of Life, 1997), and Michael Kearney (Mortally Wounded. Stories of Soul Pain, Death and Healing, 1996 [see entry in this database]). Barnard et al. point out that Quill, Byock, and Kearney are "passionate advocates for their own styles of care . . . Yet these very characteristics--advocacy and close personal involvement--limit their books in important respects." (p. 5) Basically, these authors select cases that illustrate the efficacy of their models and present the patients’ stories from their own point of view.
Crossing Over draws on a standard qualitative methodology that includes tape-recorded interviews of patients, families, and health care professionals; chart reviews; and participant observation. After the introduction, the narratives occupy 374 pages of text (almost 19 pages per patient). Part II of the book, entitled "Working with the Narratives," includes a short chapter on research methods and 29 pages of "Authors’ Comments and Questions for Discussion." The latter is designed to be used as a teaching guide.
Anton Chekhov died in 1904. His sister Marya (or "Maria" in this novel) survived the Communist Revolution and two World Wars to die in 1957 at the age of 94. After Anton's death, the unmarried Maria assumed his role as head of the extended Chekhov clan and she devoted the remainder of her life to the protection and advancement of her brother's literary legacy. To do so, she had to plead his case with the Russian authorities and later adapt to the political (and literary) orthodoxy imposed by the Communist regime. Early in the Soviet era, Maria successfully lobbied to have the Chekhov house at Yalta turned into a State museum, thereby insuring that the author's books and papers would be preserved.
The action of this novel takes place during the Great Patriotic War in late 1941 when the Germans occupied Yalta. Maria lives at the Chekhov museum, where she presides as curator. Also living at the house is Peter Kunin, a medical student and would-be writer who is Maria's protégé. In preparation for the Germans' arrival, Maria arranges the house to make it seem that Chekhov was pro-German. For example, she has Kunin dig up an old portrait of Goethe to hang over the mantelpiece.
Despite these machinations, the Germans fully intend to billet soldiers in the museum until a mysterious man named Diskau shows up. Diskau, who works for the German Ministry of Culture, insists that the Chekhov household be spared. In fact, he proposes to win over the local population to the German "liberators" by staging a New Year's Eve production of The Seagull in the abandoned Imperial Theater.
The remainder of the novel traces preparations and rehearsals, culminating in the single catastrophic performance of The Seagull, during which all is revealed.
In the late 20th century, Britannula, an island near New Zealand, has achieved its independence from Great Britain. Settled by a group of young men some 30 years before the action of this novel, Britannula has developed into a prosperous land governed by a President and a single-house legislative body, the Assembly. They have adopted a great social experiment called the "Fixed Period," by which the society and its citizens will avoid the suffering, decrepitude, and expense of old age. At age 67 each person will be "deposited" into a lovely, carefree "college" (Necropolis) where he or she will spend one delightful year before being euthanized.
The story takes place just as the time approaches for Gabriel Crasweller, a wealthy landowner and good friend of President Neverbend, to be deposited. Crasweller is the first citizen to have lived out his Fixed Period, and the President, whose brainchild the Fixed Period is, experiences a conflict between his love for Crasweller--who inexplicably does not want to die--and his determination to carry out the law. Mounting resistance to the Fixed Period among the older citizens (including his wife) also surprises Neverbend, although the Assembly, composed mostly of young people, reaffirms the law. Just as Crasweller is led off to Necropolis, a British gunship arrives in port to relieve Neverbend of his duties as President and re-establish direct control of Britannula.
An elderly woman prepares for an announced visit from "officials" to honor the 90th birthday of her demented and bedridden husband, Bernat, once a major force in the scientific community of Communist controlled Hungary. As she flutters about the apartment, preparing to serve cakes and drinks to the anticipated visitors, the reader becomes acquainted with the unnamed protagonist's own concentration difficulty. She repeatedly lapses into remote recall, speaking fondly of an apparent former lover and occasionally sighing for Mommie or Daddy.
During the brief period of waiting, she unfolds bits and pieces of the life of the intellectually privileged and those not so lucky during the Communist regime, and her own regrets for dreams not realized. The reader does not meet the guests, but learns of the visit only through the eyes of Bernat's wife. The visits serves only to enhance her fears that the apartment may be taken, the little pension upon which the couple lives may be rescinded.
As the little vignette draws to a close, the wife enters the room of Bernat, who is obviously profoundly demented, but for whom she cares as one would care for a baby. The sadness of her lonely life dissolves into tears of resigned hopelessness.
Adam and Seth Bede work as carpenters in the little village of Hayslope. Seth proposes to Dinah Morris, a gifted Methodist preacher, but she wants to devote herself to God's work. However, neither Dinah's faith nor her aunt Mrs. Poyser's sharp country truths can deflate the vain fancies of her pretty Hetty Sorrel (Mrs. Poyser's other niece). Although good Adam woos Hetty, she is distracted by the idle attentions of Captain Arthur Donnithorne, and when Adam finds out, he fights Arthur, who leaves town.
But when Hetty realizes she is pregnant, she runs away to see Arthur, only to find, arriving destitute after a difficult journey, that his regiment has been called away. Hetty restrains herself from suicide and gives birth in a lodging-house, then runs off with the infant and buries it in the brush, where it dies. After she is convicted for child-murder, Arthur finally hears the news, and Hetty's commuted sentence (transportation) saves her from the gallows. Two years later, Adam and Dinah realize they love each other, and they marry.
This varied collection of short stories and poems is unified not so much by theme as by their appropriateness to the intended listening audience--the bedridden or homebound elderly. In a brief but moving preface editor Carolyn Banks recalls her work in an adult day care center where she was expected to entertain those who were recovering from strokes or suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Reading aloud provided sometimes startling moments of contact with patients who were incapable of sustained conversation. Banks realized that while there are many story collections for children and general adult audiences, no one had done a collection for a group with these specific needs.
The collection includes 52 stories--one a week for a year--that cover a range of life situations. Not all focus on age or illness, though some do. In several a grandparent plays a crucial role in a grandchild's life. Some are set in the 1930's, 40's and 50's--periods likely to trigger memories for those now in their 70's and 80's.
Several stories focus on situations of widowhood and other losses, and some on death: Banks insists that death "is not a taboo topic." Many of the stories are comic, since, she comments, laughter is "an important response to court." All are short enough to read in a half hour or less, and "not insultingly simple."
The Exact Location of the Soul is a collection of 26 essays along with an introduction titled "The Making of a Doctor/Writer." Most of these essays are reprinted from Selzer's earlier books (especially Mortal Lessons and Letters to a Young Doctor). Six pieces are new and include a commentary on the problem of AIDS in Haiti ("A Mask on the Face of Death"), musings on organ donation ("Brain Death: A Hesitation"), a conversation between a mother and son ("Of Nazareth and New Haven"), and the suicide of a college student ("Phantom Vision").
Madame Ranevsky returns to her estate after five years in Paris, where she had fled after the accidental death of her young son. In the interim her brother and adopted daughter have been running the estate, which has gone hopelessly into debt, largely because of Madame Ranevsky's improvident life style. As she and her adolescent daughter Anya arrive, friends and retainers have gathered to greet them. Among these are Trofimov, her dead son's tutor and an ineffectual idealist; and Lopahin, a brilliantly successful businessman whose father had once been a serf on the Ranevsky estate.
The family's beloved cherry orchard, along with the house and the rest of the estate, are about to go on the auction block. Lopahin proposes a solution: break up the cherry orchard into building plots and lease them to city folks to build summer villas. This would generate an annual income of 25,000 rubles and, thus, solve all of Madame Ranevsky's financial problems. She refuses to consider cutting down the orchard. Her brother, Gaev, gravitates ineffectually around the problem, suggesting various harebrained schemes to raise money, but in the end he believes there is no solution: "Someone gets sick, you know, and the doctor suggests one thing after another, that means there's no cure . . . " (p. 346)
The auction occurs, and, lo and behold, Lopahin himself has purchased the estate with the intention of developing the property for summer villas. In the last act, as Madame Ranevsky and her family prepare to vacate the house, workmen hover in the background, ready to begin chopping down the orchard. Madame Ranevsky departs for Paris, and Lopahin leaves to pursue his business in the city. A much alluded-to liaison between Lopahin and Varya, the adopted daughter, dies on the vine, apparently because the businessman has neither the time nor inclination for romance. As the house is closed up, Firs, the senile 87-year-old servant, is inadvertently left behind.
Zimmer's poem begins with policy guidelines for landlords whose elderly tenants may be calling the switchboard more than three times per month for health emergencies. According to the guidelines, such patterns suggest that the resident, no longer capable of independent living, can be moved to a health care center.
In response to the policy passage, an advisory poem is constructed by the narrator for his own father who, we can assume, values his independence. In essence the son advises silence about medical events such as a fall: "tell no one." If an ambulance should arrive, don't get in.
The strong warnings reflect contemporary health care systems in which the prevailing practices correspond to Dante's Inferno, particularly the tenth circle. At that level, everyone faces one direction and people are "piled like cordwood inside the cranium of Satan." Cries for help are unheard and unanswered.