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Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Message Board

Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Board Index

Re: Life-support
Jul 16, 2013
Stephanie, Titchou is right in that it depends on the situation. Most hospitals will not admit without the necessary paperwork related to living wills, DNR, and other forms signed. They will not do surgery without permission either. Trac/ventilators may be initiated quicker than say feeding tubes. It is a myth that they can do any treatment they want and the family have no control. In reality the family has all the control.

You have a further issue with preexisting conditions. If a person is young, vibrant, and has a good chance of returning to a healthy productive life then ventilators and other such treatment may be necessary and appropriate. If a loved one is in the final stages of dementia, why would you want to initiate these extraordinary measures. Some families have religious and moral basis for their decisions that the doctors do not know without family input. And you are right, it is more difficult to turn off the machines once they have been in place.

I had a living will, DNR, and MOST forms for both Mom and Dad. They both had their respective dementia in the advanced stages. I would have been POed if somebody had started advanced life support on either of them without my permission!! The paperwork they had signed themselves said no.... and that was my wish as well.

So yes the pendulum has swung. Rather than putting people on life support and then trying to figure out what to do later regarding their wishes.... the hospitals do ask for the appropriate paper work up front. You may or may not remember Karen Ann Quinlan. She was found unconscious after a party, put on a ventilator, and it was a national media circus when the husband requested (because of her vegetative state with no hope of improvement) that she be taken off the ventilator. This sparked a national debate, which spear headed the Hospice program, living wills, and other health directives.

Each person needs to consider their wishes for end of life care and complete a living will/health directive. They are stated in a way that it differentiates because a irreversible condition and a condition that may have a good outcome. Some people want all the medical treatment possible at all times. Some want only comfort care if they are terminal with no possibility of returning to an active life. The choice needs to be yours... and completing this paperwork in advance is the only way to make sure those wishes are followed :)

Love, deb

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