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.
Four months after Mother died her bills have continued to arrive. While we were prepared to pay her final utility bills as well as the end-of-life and memorial service costs, it felt a bit strange to receive so many others, and doubly so more than four months after her death. Yet all of the bills were legitimate.
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.
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.
Google Gets It … According to the New York Times,when a person searches with terms that could indicate suicidal thoughts, Google results will automatically include suggestions about suicide prevention, including a hotline telephone number. This policy, thought it cannot respond to every potential end-of-life search term, may make the difference in helping a person decide to live. I’ve pasted in a graphic of the Google response. Bravo!
When a suicide occurs in a family, it is never really forgotten. On a beautiful April day more than ten years ago, my parents lost a son and I lost my bother to suicide. I read somewhere that in spring, as the days get longer and the flowers come out, people with depression or bi-polar disorders can’t figure out why they are so unhappy. Some of them decide to kill themselves. Recently when my aging parents and I visited my brother’s grave, I realized again how raw the pain is and that while they have moved on in life, the grief continues. How much it has affected their health in subsequent years, I’ll never know.
Thank you Google. If even a few people have second thoughts, an enormous amount of grief and pain will be prevented, especially for aging parents who never stop asking, “Why?”