6.19.2004

Often Alzheimer's brings with it a host of choices for those providing care. Coming to our site, many of you have generously shared your own personal experiences with family members or your concerns for the future. We will share some of those here. It shows the necessity of preventative action, if possible.

Difficult decisions for Alzheimer's sufferers' families

By Gina Kolata, NEW YORK TIMES

Macie Mull was 82 and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for more than a decade when she developed pneumonia. Her nursing home rushed her to the hospital where she spent the night, receiving intravenous antibiotics. The next day she was back at the nursing home, more confused than ever.

Now she was choking on her pureed food; eating was becoming impossible. And so, one Sunday afternoon, the administrators of her nursing home in Hickory, N.C., asked Mull's daughter what to do: Did she want a feeding tube inserted? At that point, Mull muttered only a few random words and could no longer recognize her daughter. The feeding tube would almost certainly prolong her life, but was it worth it?

The question of how aggressive to be in treating late-stage Alzheimer's patients is one of the most wrenching and contentious issues in medicine. For every patient who, like Mull, reaches the final stage of the disease, there typically are about five or six family members faced with decisions about whether to authorize medical treatments for patients whose bodies live on though their minds are gone.

New research has found that Alzheimer's patients at the end of their lives often receive everything that medicine has to offer.



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