If you are not a regular reader of the New York Times, use this link to go to What Broke My Father’s Heart, by Katie Butler, published in the June 14, 2010, NY Times Magazine. Butler writes about the enormous difficulties her family encountered after a pacemaker was inserted into her father’s chest despite that he had advanced dementia. She describes the enormous stress and health consequences her mother experienced, as well as the thoughts and actions of the adult children in her family.
All of us should be aware, alert, and protective of our parents. When end-of-of-life decisions are unwittingly changed because of the addition of life-prolonging medical devices, tragic problems can occur — even if all of a parent’s papers and legal documents are in place.
A May 14, 2010, MedlinePlus/Health Day article, As End of Life Nears, What to Do With Implanted Defibrillators?, provides additional background and discussion.
Take a few minutes to read a post at the Intrepid Paper Girl blog about the life and dementia-related death of journalist Lynn Forbish. Forbish’s last years of life demonstrate how people with dementia continue to think, feel emotions, and make decisions. Her end-of-life experience illustrates the cognitive model that researcher Justin Feinstein and University of Iowa colleagues presented in the journal article Sustained Experience of Emotion After Loss of Memory in Patients with Amnesia (abstract). A related post here on As Our Parents Age, Dementia: Emotions May Continue, highlighted the small study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The author of Intrepid Paper Girl is a Nieman fellow at Harvard. If you enjoy reading newspapers, like journalism in general, or just want to live vicariously the dream of many an aging child – winning a funded year to return to a big university campus as an adult, when you can really appreciate it — this is a blog to enjoy.
Take a few minutes to read Long Goodbye of the Elderly Can Create Crisis for Family Caregivers in the April 6, 2010 Washington Post Health section. Abigail Trafford describes what we experienced during three years of aging parent caregiving. She writes, “The long goodbye is a predictable chapter in our lives. Giving care — and receiving care — is what to expect when you’re expecting a long life.”
We miss my husband’s mother, who died in January a few months shy of 91, ending three years of increasingly complex caregiving, but since then our life has become more relaxed. During the last six months of mother’s life we were always tired. Often we commented that we felt like we were saying good-bye to her that whole time. When the phone rang regularly at odd hours our minds instinctively ran through the possibilities, wondering if the end might be near. On a regular day, in addition to our jobs, there were always doctor’s visits, medicines, therapies, activities, assistive devices, time with Mother, and so much more.
Yet the two of us also figured out how to share the burden, being especially alert to help each other when frustration was overwhelming. We kept exercising as much as possible and went out to eat a lot more than unusual. Oh, and we paid someone else to iron the beautiful long-sleeve cotton blouses that Mother loved and wore daily until the day she died.
Observation about Seniors and Falling
- Three out of four of our parents fell while they were living active lives, albeit with certain chronic medical conditions.
- All four attended classes or workshops on balance assessment and fall prevention. Our parents found these sessions interesting and intellectually stimulating but did not subsequently apply much of what they learned.
- After these classes they all tended to assume that if they could do the exercises they were OK, not processing the information about regular exercise practice preventing future falls.
- All four are taking or took four or more medications each day. Some of these are known to have dizziness side effects.
- All four were advised at some point by occupational therapists to make specific changes in their apartments (rugs, bath chairs, furniture rearrangement, etc.). Few were made until an injury required a change.