Healthcare’s attempt to reverse the “Downward Spiral” usually only leads to futile ‘micro-management’! In response to families wanting “something done”, doctors will ‘do something’, but, with so many more toxic options/drugs now available, we risk making problems worse. [A physician wrote, any symptom a senior has should be considered a drug side-effect till proven otherwise!!]
In other words, in trying to forestall inevitable death, grasping at the memory of a once healthy parent and with the false hope of returning to an unrealistic level of function, all we often do is cause additional suffering [which may then leave families with a bad memory !]. There’s a difference between ‘living’ and ‘prolonging dying’. The most important principle of medicine is: First, Do No Harm!
This futile care is an example of the law of diminishing returns – having achieved the benefits from older drugs and lower cost measures such as vaccinations, sanitation, regular food sources, each new treatment costs increasingly more for a smaller gain.
* Be careful what you read. Many studies are biased in favor of the treatment, downplaying the harms. It’s been said there are three kinds of lies: “lies”, “damn lies”, and “statistics”!! Just because something is “statistically significant”, doesn’t mean it will help a particular individual.
Doctors can’t guarantee who will benefit: although a study reports a “significant improvement” [for those taking a drug], a large group must be treated while we wait to see who really benefits, who doesn’t change, and who may actually be harmed.
* Is a parent going to the doctor and hospital just to please their kids? Hank Dunn suggests adult children need to ‘let go’ of this ‘selfishness’, which—through modern technology—can keep our parents alive but can also prolong discomfort and interfere in a more peaceful journey. [if you want a copy of his excellent booklet, go to Hospice of the Shoals where you can buy it for $1.]
* Focus on what’s best for the whole person—not just a particular organ or disease. Most patients usually have several specialists trying to ‘cure’ each one’s particular area/organ; unfortunately, “too many chefs can sometimes spoil the broth.”
Finally, since no one can avoid dying, it’s important to enjoy our final months or years with dignity: eat and drink what you want, watch funny shows, and find a good hospice at the end!!