Back in 2000, the Alzheimer’s Association Ethics Advisory Panel concluded that advanced-stage Alzheimer’s should be considered a terminal disease.
This conclusion led to the realization, by many families, that they should be more concerned with pain-care than cure.
I believe in that same approach to terminal illness – letting the patient die with dignity, and with a focus on pain-alleviation, rather than keeping her alive through feeding tubes.
A study several years ago concluded that Alzheimer’s patients with pneumonia or hip fractures die much sooner than patients with those injuries who aren’t cognitively-impaired. Several studies have found that palliative care, rather than life-extension, is called for in those cases. And palliative care is much more effectively-given at home or on hospice than in a hospital setting.
Experts have noted that life-extension efforts in end-stage Alzheimer’s create extra suffering for patients, and extra burdens for families. That invasive testing should be avoided. And that antibiotics are not called for, as they don’t prolong life, and don’t contribute to patient comfort.
I agree – emphatically! I believe discussions about end-of-life care should begin shortly after someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I believe the patient should create advance directives stating her wishes about her medical treatment. I believe the patient should create a Durable Power of Attorney, designating a surrogate to make decisions about her care when she no longer can. And I believe the patient should create a Living Will, so her desires for end-of-life treatment are on a legal document, and not subject to interpretation.
If you’ve got a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you’re probably overwhelmed with questions…more and more as the disease progresses. And, for every one answer you get, you’ll come up with two new questions. But we can help.
At The Law Offices of Alice Reiter Feld, we’ve been answering questions about Alzheimer’s – and a hundred other Elder Law issues – for the past 34 years. During that time, we’ve answered these questions for thousands of South Florida families. And we’ve answered their questions, too, about comprehensive estate planning, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, long-term care planning, asset-protection plans, and assistance with Medicaid or the VA.
If you have questions, we have answers. And we’re just a phone call away.