Aging Parents: Important New Guidelines Could Make it Easier for Those nearing Life’s End

DYING IN AMERICA AND HONORING INDIVIDUAL PREFERENCES NEAR THE END OF LIFE, with recommendations for major changes, was issued last week (9/17/14) by THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF MEDICINE’S RESEARCH ARM, THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE. It suggests an overhaul of current practice at almost every level. (See “Newsworthy” 9/17/14 at right for NY Times report on the report.) 

Palliative Care is mentioned several times as an important aspect of the “overhaul” ideas. While we obviously can’t count on this recommended “overhaul” to take place immediately, it would seem that those not familiar with palliative care, would do well to check out specifics in the “Newsworthy” (right sidebar) 12/16/13 NPR Palliative Care broadcast–as well as “Related” below.

Palliative care is an available option that– if appropriate–could make a significant difference for caregivers and the comfort level of elders as we try to help parents age well….until the end.

Related: Post– Palliative Care and Hospice Both Help Aging Parents: Know the Difference.
                         An Oregon Health Sciences University Prof Weighs in, supporting the new Guidelines

 

 

Aging Parents: As Mother Lay Dying

Among the Things I Wish I Knew…Ahead of Time

Helping parents age well doesn’t end until their heart beats its last beat, to my way of thinking. I didn’t realize I thought (or felt) this until Mother rebounded amazingly for three months after successful heart valve surgery, then went into a coma. (We’d been warned the surgery could stress other parts of the heart and end in heart failure, which it did.)

Mother was already hospitalized when I raced (flew) cross country, rented a car, and broke every speed limit to be at her hospital bedside. Half hour later she was in a coma. Something in me (and I think in Dad) wanted her to be able to die at home. But it was Memorial Day weekend and we learned, upon asking, that getting any kind of caregiver etc. help immediately was out of the question.

An attractive room in the mostly-empty hospice section of the hospital was available and was suggested to us as an option. Local designers had decorated each room individually–very pleasant atmosphere. Regardless of Mother’s state of functioning, she would like this pretty room I thought. She was moved there. Perhaps it made only Dad and me feel better.

Never-the-less I remember going out within the hour and buying fresh fragrant flowers for her bedside table. I wasn’t in denial. She’d always loved the fragrance of flowers and although they say hearing is the last to go, I was uncertain about sense of smell. Looking back, I realize I would do what I could to help my parents age as well as possible until the very end. Today I think that would have included palliative care. We would have been better prepared. If Mother and Dad wanted it, Mother would have been at home and not in the hospital at the end.

This outstanding (to me) NPR radio segment, “How Palliative Care Helps–One Iowa Family’s Experience,” features a family and the physician supporting them. A rare front-row seat, so to speak, of palliative care in action. Those of us who have been helping our parents age well (whether on-site, or from far away like myself), help both our parents and ourselves when we understand outside sources of support (palliative care and hospice) and their differences–way in advance of ever needing them–if possible.

Related:

https://helpparentsagewell.com/2013/03/09/pallative-care-and-hospice-both-help-aging-parents-consider-the-differences/

 “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely research and information from highly respected universities and professionals,  plus some practical stuff, to help parents age well.