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Join the Discussion: What are your reactions to this program on Americans living an increasingly longer life, but needing more intensive, expensive and prolonged  caregiving?  What needs to change in order to address this looming crisis? How can we make change happen?

your personal story: Share your story of caring for an elderly loved one in the last part of their life:   What this involved and how it has affected you and your family.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I just wanted to say thanks for putting all of your amazing programs online. I don't have a television and get all of my news online, and I check for new Frontline episodes weekly and have watched a substantial percentage of the past episodes posted on the website. You do a great service to the community by offering your wonderful program to the public for free in this format.

Nick de Sieyes
Menlo Park, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

your program looked only at the down side and ignored the fact that people can have some quality of life as they age. I loved the woman who refused to sign the paper her son wanted her to sign. Thank goodness someone had some spunk. Yes, it's difficult to age and yes it's difficult for the family. But who ever promised us that life would be easy. I like older people and enjoy talking with them. I have also been involved in the end of life care of my father. I just can't believe you produced a program so imbalanced to the negative side. Couldn't you have looked at the issue from both the positive and the negative point of view?

Candace D'Addario
Pasadena, California

Dear FRONTLINE,

At the risk of sounding callous, I've often wondered why we euthanize dogs, cats, horses, etc. for compassion or even "humanitarianism" then wholly reverse that same alternative when it comes to humans.

Where goes the logic? If one is wanting finally to die because of the hopeless quality of his/her life, or even so as not to be a life altering burden to his/her kids, then who are we or anyone else to impose our will upon that person? What happens to the sensitivity we would bestow on an animal? For most of our lives we make our own choices as to how we live our lives.

That freedom ceases and becomes controlled or denied by others, including our kids, when we try to choose to let go. Then may be the most important time to have that freedom.

Michael Griffee
Cassopolis, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

I applaud Frontline for broadcasting a story that is rarely discussed in the mainstream media. It was thoughtfully produced and really touched my heart.

As a person in their late 20s, I appreciate the contributions of my elders and find programming like "Living Old" refreshing, insightful and valuable.

Even though I work for a senior care provider I do not work directly at the facility, so I learned much about the challenges and painful decisions that the elderly and their families face each day.

Thank you for encouraging dialogue about those that are very much still a part of our society!

Eloisa Townsend
Vancouver, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

I work in the kitchen of a fairly small, long term care nursing facility. We are a good facility - consistently highly rated in both state and corporate surveys. A large number of our residents fit the profile of this evenings piece. Most of my time is spent in the facilities main dining room where meals are served restaurant style. I see the healthier portion of the resident population - those capable of coming downstairs and feeding themselves or that need minimal assistance. We make every effort possible to help our residents maintain, and/or adapt these skills. This bit of independence two or three times a day is for most, second in importance only to their families. It's heart breaking to watch peoples function deteriorate, knowing the time is approaching that we will no longer be able to accommodate them and they will have to eat all their meals upstairs. For many this will be five or more years. Within weeks of taking this job I wrote a living will and will file a DNR order. Helping people die well is an honor as well as a duty and we as a society have lost touch with that fact in many ways. I see and provide good, compassionate care on a daily basis and still dread the thought of dealing with the care of my now 78 year old mother in the not too distant future.

Laura Castano-Longey
Greenfield, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Living Old" highlighted the positive difference a caring family can make in the life of a deteriorating elderly individual. I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment.

However, what about those who are single and/or childless and who may not have extended family they are close to? Who advocates for these elderly people if they cannot speak for themselves?

Also, elderly people in this position often lack genuine relationships. Although many paid caregivers, from aides to physicians, are very compassionate people I don't think we should be quick to classify the relationships they have with their patients as "genuine." This loneliness is very concerning to me, as it seems harmful from both a physical and emotional standpoint.

East Lansing, Michigan

Dear FRONTLINE,

I just watched this program for the first time. Within the past two months, I have seen my lovely stepmother try to care for my dad while caring for her own health care problems at home.

My stepmother died first, then my father died exactly one month later in a hospital after being diagnosed many years ago with cancer, strokes, diabetes, bypass heart surgery.....He was ready to go at the end, especially after his wife died. However, my mother was diagnosed with dementia about 7 years ago and has gotten progressively worse and the quality of her life is non-existent however she had open heart surgery years ago which accelerated her dementia. I know she would not want to live the life she is living now in the nursing home, nor want any of her friends to remember her as she is now.

She was a proud, independent, career woman.....ahead of her time, really. Her granddaughters will only be able to remember her as she is now, not as she was ten years ago, full of life and witticisms.

I do not look forward to the same fate as my mother. If I do not wish to take this same path, even if I convey my wishes, I will not have a choice in the matter. If I need emergency heart surgery, I will probably have it. If I have strokes and am incapacitated and unable to care for myself, science will fix my body, but allow me to breathe in a wheelchair/exist without having any meaning in my life....

We treat our pets in a more humane and dignified fashion than we do our elders at this time. It does not seem fair in any way.

Thank you for this program that shows the real side of growing old in America.

Plattsburgh, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I just happened on your show on the elderly. Compelling. Emotonal.

My dear father passed away 2 years ago, in 2007 at the age of 95. I had to move him from his home in 2001, to an assisted living facility near me. This was not his town, he had to move from his home that he and my mother built, one block from the Atlantic Ocean.

I am a Nurse Practitioner. I hooked him up with a Geriantologist in my town. The Physician was wonderful! My Dear old Dad had problems initially with psychosis. He thought everyone @ the assisted living facility was trying to poison him. It was so pathetic for me, to watch my previously vibrant father, deteriorate. He had been in corporate management. The Boss of his salesman, and his family. Now he was stuck in a wheelchair, and couldn't even wipe his own butt. He was afraid of death...This show is so painful to watch. I too, have horrible guilt. I know I did the best for him.

Melinda Sheffield
Gainesville, FL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Diapers to Diapers, dust to dust - it is time to be serious about the concept of "death with dignity". Remember "Soylent Green".

The system will never be able to afford us boomers with the kind of care you presented.

Howard Soderberg
Stratford, CT.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Congraulations on a fine program.

I am a RN who has struggled with this issue professionally and personally. My parents have both died with dignity. I am a advocate of dying at home with appropriate care and comfort.

For centuries this is how we died. Hospitals are overwhelmed and not prepared to care for the numbers of our aging patients.

We have a opportunity to open the discussion on how we can use our healthcare resources to keep patients home where 90% want to be.

John amrine
Fairfax, Virginia

Dear FRONTLINE,

I just finished reading a new book "MEMORY LESSONS" - by Jerald Winakur, a geriatrician.

He eloquently and poetically describes the challenges faced not only taking care of the elderly, but also in taking care of his own seriously failing parents.

It explores both at home and institutional care, butin a very personal empathic way. As a psychologist who deals with the elderly and their families, I found this beautifully written and very helpful. I highly recommend it.

Charles Merrill
New York, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

Excellent clear portrayel of something that many of us can't fathom until the hospital bed, suction machine, oxygen machine, feeding tube equipment, bed pads, etc. are in our home.

I cared for my Mother for 7 years while she battled a brain tumor. No one is prepaired for the heart wrenching decisions. I truly related to the Dr. who commented on when do you stop testing and treating.

You just don't want to let go, but in the end when you reflect back "with a clearer calmer mind" one has to question who was it really for?

Rosemary Ruston-Cosselmon
Charlottesville, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Estelle Strongin showed much courage and strength about taking on anything that comes our way in life.

As she said, where there is life, there is Hope.

I was sadden to hear that she had pass away shortly after the interview. I will take with me her wordsof wisdom, "Where there is life there is hope. Those words from a special lady who showed an incrediable desire for life and how precious every moment is.

Ronnie Rush
Sacramento, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

A little known fact is that for those 85 and older, facing placement in a long term care facility, are most certainly facing being placed with a nursing home population that includes the mentally ill and those with severe dementia, that may be younger.

It is a fact that on average, about 30 percent of any given nursing home's population is mentally ill per the State criteria, and about 60 percent suffer from moderate to severe dementia. In addition, The mentally ill and demented populations are often on average younger than 85, but the 85 and over population likely has access only to nursing homes that house such patients.

It is likely they will be housed with, and perhaps in the same room, with the mentally ill or demented, regardless of their current level of mental health or cognitive status.....and this huge issue goes largely unnoticed-and ignored by both the state agencies and the nursing home industry. There is little in place to keep the mentally healthy and non-demented patients separated in any way....

Having been a social worker in nursing care facilities, I see this on a daily basis....

Howe, IN

Dear FRONTLINE,

Great overview program and even better web site on the variety of issues confronting Mid-aged Children caring for/about to care for aging parents/elders.

My folks are 81/83 respectively, and I see the onset of ALZ in my Mom and my dad suffers other debilitating physical issues - yet they press on caring for themselves and I envision the day soon when I will have to increase my care for them at a cost to me life and theirs.

For myself as a US Gov't employee I signed up for Long Term Care Insurance at the maximum possible now, to cover inflated costs in the 10-20 years I hope it takes until the earliest possible time I'll have to use that coverage.

But my folks live off a LIVING-WILL and I'm not sure if that will cover the costs of their own long term care in the near-term. Your research and resources/links and references are a great starting point! Thanks!

Edward M
chantilly, va

Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed watching some of your program and have been reading more about it on-line. I am a hospice nurse and have worked with dying patients, now, for over 15 years, many of them elderly. So many of our patients and their family members feel "lost" after they have been told by a doctor that their disease is no longer treatable or that they have only 6 months or less to live.

I wish that programs like FRONTLINE would emphasize and teach lay people more about hospice and palliative care. Many elderly people want to give up or voluntarily end their life when they have chronic illnesses, but hospice care provides hope for them. The care is provided by nurses, a doctor/medical director, social workers, home health aides, chaplain, and berevement services if the family would like after someone dies.

I think that our society would be able to handle end-of-life issues better if we could more easily accept death as part of life. We wait 9 months until a newborn baby is born, preparing, taking classes, taking time off of work when the baby is born. We have so much to learn about end of life issues and the elderly as it's population increases, spending those last months preparing and helping our loved ones to get the emotional and physical care they need is just SO important.

Thank you for running this much needed program on elderly and long term care. I hope that the program helps to increase awareness and needs of end of life issues and care.

Judy Johnson, RN, BSN

Judy Johnson
Columbia, Maryland

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posted nov. 21, 2006

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