When Janet Lembke's mother was a sprightly seventy-eight years old, she had made her daughter promise to help her die when the time came: pills with a stiff Bloody Mary and a hug. But when that time came nine years later, it was not so simple. Her mother had had a series of strokes that had rendered her incapable of rational thought, and Lembke could not, in fact, help her mother die. Watching her mother suspended in a life that wasn't really living prompted Lembke to wonder what could be done. How do we deal with life's end? How best may those of us who have our wits about us care for old, f rail people whose minds are forever in the shadows? This book is a result of her quest for answers.
She examines death by choice--suicide assisted and otherwise; advance medical directives; the bioethics of chasing death down by withdrawal of life support; dementia and how a caregiver may cope with it; hospice care; and the quality of life. The eponymous chapter explores ways to determine quality and offers objective criteria. Lembke interviewed many people and tells their stories. Among them are two women who helped their mothers die, a rabbi, a priest, a Muslim bioethicist, and a man who has survied not one but two kidney transplants. The book concludes with a list of resources, like the Alzheimer's Association and The Stroke Network.