My FOF friend Alicia’s 94-year-old mother lives in a nursing home in another state. Her mom is frail and was recently hospitalized for congestive heart failure. Alicia was taken aback when she learned her brother didn’t tell her about the incident. “What could you have done?” he asked. While Alicia helps out on the financial front, her brother lives near their mom, so he attends to her physical needs.
“I would have wanted to say a proper goodbye if something happened,” I told my brother. Their mother was in the hospital for two days and is now back in the home. Alicia is planning to visit her this weekend and take her for further medical evaluation. “My mother has told me she wants to keep living, as long as the quality of her life is decent,” Alicia said. “She still enjoys having her hair done and playing bridge. She enjoys her life.”
Alicia is determined to do everything she can to maintain her mother’s health. Her brother, however, feels their mother’s life is coming to a close and the best they can do is to keep her comfortable.
This is a heart-wrenching discussion that takes place among families across the country. Personally, I agree with Alicia. If my mom wasn’t ready to call it a day, and she wasn’t suffering, who am I to decide otherwise?
0 Responses to “A daughter’s duty”
I suspect Alicia’s brother is coping by jumping the gun. Though that is speculation, it sounds as if he is catastrophizing, which is how some people cope. (I worked for years in a hospital.)
If he and Alicia can have open, continual communication, they can make choices based on the physician’s assessment. Doctors ( in the developed world) keep the aged alive as along as they possibly can.
Palliative care is not bout doing nothing. It acknowledges that certain routes such as invasive surgery will likely not have positive outcomes, but it also permits interventions such as resuscitation. It is not “hands off”. Many people hear “palliative care” and assume the patient is given pain medication and that’s it. In 2011 it means that though something takes everyone, health care providers will give the best quality of life they can while this the disease progresses- which may take a long time.
At 94, life expectancy is not long, but quality can be maintained. Her mother’s wishes should be the paramount criterion.
Marsha Calhoun says:
This is such a useful clarification – thank you.
Marsha Calhoun says:
Hard decisions, of course. But I don’t quite see the problem here, aside from Alicia needing to tell her brother to call her if her mom has a health crisis. Mom is still getting her hair done, playing bridge, etc., is she not? What else needs to be done?
As the only child of my mother, and the only available child of my father during both sets of their final days, I was so lucky to be able to make decisions on the spot with the advice of their health care providers and my trusted daughter and fiance, who were also there with me physically and understood the total picture very well. No arguments with far-away siblings who, well-meaning and generous as they might have been, weren’t doing the day-to-day decision-making, organizing, and coping. Maybe Alicia could make her own arrangements with the nursing home to be alerted if something major comes up with mom – that would be one less thing for her brother to have to deal with (who, if mom’s nursing home is as good as my mother’s was, keeps him informed of every detail of her life, a fine situation but one that requires considerable physical, mental, and emotional energy).
Sounds like more communication would help the situation – what, really, is the difference between doing everything to maintain mom’s health and recognizing that mom’s life is indeed coming to a close and keeping her comfortable? Are we talking about extreme medical measures, or what? Exactly what would be different from mom’s point of view if “everything” was done? Because that’s what matters.
Kate Line Snider says:
I think Alicia’s brother is an ass. Most people want to live until they die. If this lady is still enjoying her beauty regimen, she’s not ready to go yet. Good for her!
People do, however, have different definitions of “quality of life”. For instance, I ‘m retired , and I don’t do as much as I used to. Although I do exercise and I have some projects of my own, my adult children are not impressed. People enjoy different things- sometimes I just like to “do nothing”. I figure I earned it, and I may consider doing it for the next 35 years or so! At least I’m not poking into my kids’ business.
The week that my mother died, she was taken to a hospital where it became quickly apparent that her days – even her moments-were numbered. When going over the treatment options, hospital officials asked my father about her quality of life. “It’s great!” he responded. I don’t now what criteria he was using. My mother was unable to walk, unable to get out of bed. She could no longer see nor could she hear a normal conversation ( and had long ago refused to get a hearing aid). At the hospital, she wasn’t sure who I was, and she thought my grown sons were still children. She also thought she was having a baby.
I guess it’s just a matter of opinion- AND THIS IS WHAT SCARES ME ABOUT GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE MAKING MY END-OF-LIFE DECISIONS!!!! I may not be ready to go when they want me to!
Thanks for bringing this up, Geri.