This is not uncommon: the family doesn’t want to lose mom and hopes by making her follow doctors’ orders for her other conditions, such as the heart disease, they can “keep her around longer”.
It’s important to ask “why” has she made this decision?
Many families state that dementia is worse than cancer because it robs them of the person they knew. Since most adults have witnessed the suffering endured by dementia patients and their families, it’s not surprising when they don’t want to follow a path that easily strips away their dignity.
Patients tell me they know there is a better life waiting for them, one without suffering, so why be kept alive only to suffer longer?
The ethical principle of autonomy allows anyone the right to refuse any treatment, even if it may lead to an earlier death.
Dementias are life-limiting diseases that eventually cause death if some other illness doesn’t cause it first. Having another fatal disease could be her ‘blessing’, interrupting the undignified course of dementia, and be her ‘best friend’, as pneumonia often was before antibiotics, allowing them to escape a “fate worse than death”!
Treating her against her wishes, interfering with ‘God and nature’, could result in unintended suffering.
She has the right to choose. Families need to understand that living as long as possible doesn’t usually include being “kept alive” only to suffer.