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End of Life Care for the Elderly

Posted Jun 11 2013 1:44pm

As people are living longer, it is extremely important that family members know how to handle problems  arising as the end of life approaches for an elderly person. Unfortunately, there are few doctors interested in this kind of care and I have heard horror stories about what some doctors have done and said. A good friend is dying of liver cancer and her son was told by the young doctor, who took over from her much loved older doctor, that the man should just take his mother home and let her die. The doctor said this in a crisp way with the unsaid message of "Don't bother me any more." I was appallled. The doctor did not give the mother any prescriptions for her nausea or her sleeplessness, nor did he refer her to Hospice. I suggested Hospice and their doctor and nurse are now offering good care.

One of the reason we have few doctors interested in caring for dying, elderly people is that there is little money to be made for this kind of care. It takes a compassionate, caring M.D., who did not go into medicine to make a lot of money, to provide this kind of medical care. So family members may need to do considerable research to find the right doctor if Hospice is not wanted. Remember there are doctors who specialize in pain management. These are usually board-certified anesthesiologists. The local medical society should be able to give you the name of one of these doctors or a good social worker at your local hospital should also have a name and be able to offer other help as well. A good social worker is worth his or her weight in gold.

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