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Slow Medicine

“I received life because the time had come. I will lose it because the order of things passes on”.

-Chuang Tzu

As a patient advocate, a care manager, and end of life doula, I support a medical approach defined as 'Slow Medicine' with elderly clients.  Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the Geriatric Care Management magazine some years ago.  

end of life planning in Oregon with slow medicine services


The goal of prolonging life without comprehensive evaluation and consideration for the quality of life is where Slow Medicine parts from mainstream medical practice in the treatment of an elderly patient.


The term Slow Medicine was coined by Dr. Dennis McCullough, a Dartmouth geriatrician and medical director at Kendal’s Continuing Care Retirement Community in Hanover, New Hampshire. He is the author of  “My Mother, Your Mother:  Embracing Slow Medicine, the Compassionate Approach to Caring for your Aging Loved One.”


Slow Medicine invites an acceptance of growing old and letting go of earlier stages in life when the dominant focus was on cure, prevention and the lengthening of life.  McCullough describes Slow Medicine as an exercise in evaluation and reflection, attentive observation and listening.  This includes questions regarding medical problems as well as how someone spends their time, what is their emotional state, how engaged are they in their community and who are their friends and family?  Most importantly, Slow Medicine requires the caring hands of many.


Effective results are not determined by the doctor alone.   It requires the commitment and intimate involvement of all who are in a client’s circle of concern, including doctors, nurses, social workers, family, friends, geriatric care managers, and death doulas.

Decline increases with each long-lived year; death will come.  How those last years are navigated is a choice. We must begin to question, and to some degree reverse the full-scale medicalization of old age, both in our outlook and in our institutions.  Slow Medicine offers renewed hope. In its approach to treating the most frail of society with kindness, understanding, empathy, compassion and medical care as appropriate to the particularities of each patient, Slow Medicine can restore grace and dignity to the human experience of aging and dying.


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