Health AGEnda

The End of Life Horror Show: We Can Do Better

Last week New York Magazine published an agonizing first person cover story by Michael Wolff, “A Life Worth Ending,” about the terrible choices and harsh reality of illness at the end of his mother’s life. The summary slug for the piece says it all: “The era of medical miracles has created a new phase of aging, as far from living as it is from dying. A son’s plea to let his mother go.”  Unfortunately, this story is one that all too many baby boomers are living as their parents move into their eighties and beyond. How can it be otherwise when almost 50% of Americans experience three or more years of profound disability before death?

In fact, there is already a growing body of such stories, including Sandra Tsing Loh’s “Daddy Issues: Why caring for my aging father has me wishing he would die,” in the March 2012 Atlantic;  Jane Gross’ book-length A Bittersweet Season based on her care of her mother and New York Times blog The New Old Age; and Jonathan Rauch’s 2010 Letting Go of My Father, also in The Atlantic Magazine. I reflected on Mr. Rauch’s piece at the time.  You can see an interview with him recorded by The Campaign for Better Care, funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies.

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Too Little Care? Too Much Care?

This blog by UCSF professor and geriatrician Sei Lee, MD, recently ran on the GeriPal blog on September 29, 2011. It explores the complex tension between under- and overtreating older adults.

I wanted to get this community’s thoughts on a recent article that made some headlines (see ABC news and New York Times for example).

In the Sept 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, Brenda Sirovich and colleagues from Dartmouth report a survey of primary care physicians, where they found that PCPs felt they were providing too much care more often than too little care.

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