Diagnosed With Dementia, She Documented Her Wishes. They Said No.

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Diagnosed With Dementia, She Documented Her Wishes. They Said No.


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JoNel Aleccia, Kaiser Health News

January 21, 2020

ITHACA, N.Y. — When she worked on the trading floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, long before cellphone calculators, Susan Saran could perform complex math problems in her head. Years later, as one of its top regulators, she was in charge of investigating insider trading deals.

Today, she struggles to remember multiplication tables.

Seven years ago, at age 57, Saran was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a progressive, fatal brain disease. She had started forgetting things, losing focus at the job she’d held for three decades. Then tests revealed the grim diagnosis.

“It was absolutely devastating,” said Saran, 64. “It changed everything. My job ended. I was put out on disability. I was told to establish myself in a community before I was unable to care for myself.”

So Saran uprooted herself. She sold her home in 2015 and found what looked like an ideal place: Kendal at Ithaca, a bucolic retirement community in rural New York whose website promised “comprehensive health care for life.”

And now, she’s fighting with that community over her right to determine how she’ll die ― even though she has made her wishes known in writing. Such a fight could ensnare millions of Americans with dementia in coming years.

In 2018, after two brain hemorrhages, Saran conferred with a lawyer and signed an advance directive for dementia, a controversial new document created by the…

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