Katy Butler’s recent article in the New York Times entitled What Broke My Father’s Heart kicks up a variety of issues related to caregiving, healthcare choices, and difficult end-of-life decision making. It is tough reading – a wrenching, sad, and frightening personal account of her father’s deterioration and death – which was prolonged by a medical technology that was intended to bolster the quality of life rather than detract from it.

“…Thanks to advanced medical technologies, elderly people now survive repeated health crises that once killed them, and so the “oldest old” have become the nation’s most rapidly growing age group. Nearly a third of Americans over 85 have dementia (a condition whose prevalence rises in direct relationship to longevity). Half need help with at least one practical, life-sustaining activity, like getting dressed or making breakfast. Even though a capable woman was hired to give my dad showers, my 77-year-old mother found herself on duty more than 80 hours a week.”

The article raises many questions about medical choices, along with end-of-life issues that few of us want to spend a lot of time thinking about. It offers a window into the weighty emotional environment that many of your employees face in dealing with aging parents or the terminal illness of a loved one. In reading the article, we recognized many of familiar life/death issues that we deal with on our EAP help line.
As an employer, you can provide support resources by way of referrals to EAPs, grief counselors, complex health care consultants, hospices, and local resources for the elderly. Via your wellness program. you can make information available on caregiving, advance directives, living wills, and healthcare proxies. Here’s a start:

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