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Reply to "Living Old - An edition of Frontline"

I saw this Frontline episode too. While I found it a little depressing, it also helped reinforce my own feelings about end of life issues. So many of those profiled were well into their 90's and had lived with dementia for many years and some were in such fragile physical condition, yet they lived on and on, largely because of advances in health care.

My mother is 85, has rapidly progressing dementia but physically, is in good health. It's difficult to think about her living in this haze of confusion for another 5 or more years. Her doctor and I have already had a discussion about how aggressively to treat any physical ailment that might occur, with the emphasis being on comfort and quality of life.

I thought a DNR was all I had to think about, but the reality is that chronic conditions often don't produce the dramatic moment that a DNR is meant to address. There are many intervening circumstances that require decisions - should you treat a bladder infection, should your loved one have a pnuemonia shot, what about IVs or tests that cause stress or discomfort - little things with potentially "life or death" consequences.

It was helpful to me to hear what the doctors in the Frontline episode had to say. They reinforced both what my own doctor had told me and what my own thinking has been.

For myself, I don't want to have the same experience my mother has gone through (complete with a court-ordered guardianship). As a family, we failed her by refusing to acknowledge that she was not able to care for herself until she was in a crisis situation. I have had a discussion with my spouse and children, letting them know my wishes and have filled out advance directives. I urge my friends to do the same, while we are capable of making informed decisions.

I encourage you all to watch this Frontline program.
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