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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012 Understanding End of Life Issues

My favorite www.nytimes.com/newoldage blog is well worth a visit. Tuesday’s post spoke about the frequency of families not to adhere to the recommendations of physicians who tell them there is slight chance that an operation or another intervention will succeed when a close relative is terminally ill. Whereas one study showed that families understood what the physician said, which could have been the problem, However, the families interpreted positive prognoses correctly.
When the outcome was negative, such as " only a 5% chance of survival" many families put their loved ones through invasive procedures anyway. They just didn’t believe or didn’t accept the negative outcome statements. They often gave reasons such as an exceptional quality of their loved one which would allow her to triumph. They were skeptical of physician’s prognoses, but only of the negative tidings. Such biases may have unhappy consequences for the loved ones in the ICUif the families insist on keeping them alive on life support.

We have experienced our first death in the new Memory Care unit. The hospice nurse was called in and the patient was comfortable, surrounded by his family and the caring staff. We will offer whatever support we can as the caregiver support group, but it makes us all wonder about our own loved ones. We are accustomed to slow decreases in skills and in physical abilities but the end of life has come swiftly to the three men who have died recently. For less than a week, they each were confined to bed having problems breathing or swallowing. None of us expected this outcome. Now we will all be better prepared and of course still worried.


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