Hard Choices for Loving People by Hank Dunn

Review by Rich O'Boyle, Editor
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"Hard Choices for Loving People: CPR, Artificial Feeding, Comfort Measures Only and the Patient with a Life-Threatening Illness" by Hank Dunn

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Don’t be underwhelmed by this short, 46-page booklet. I was expecting a thick book with numerous references and endless examples when I bought it online. Instead, I found a concise and easy to read (despite the smallish typeface) discussion of all of the major (and minor) aspects of end-of-life decision-making.

Topics discussed include:

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): survival rates, burdens of CPR, CPR and the frail elderly patient;
  • Artificial Hydration and Nutrition: the cases for and against artificial feeding, the difference between withholding and withdrawing, artificial feeding and the dementia patient;
  • Hospice and the "Comfort Measures Only" Order: end-stage dementia, optional medical treatments;
  • Making End-of-Life Decisions: advance directives, questions to help make a decision; and
  • The Journey to Letting Go: religious and spiritual issues, giving up and letting go.

This booklet is a great resource for both professional and family caregivers. For the Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia caregiver, it is especially helpful since Dunn uses many dementia examples and points out the nuances of dementia care. In all cases, the author manages to provide a balanced and informative discussion of options, issues and concerns.

This book is recommended for anyone facing the prospects of caring for an aging parent or spouse (that makes it just about everyone!). It is especially useful as a handy resource when discussing end-of-life planning such as when you are writing or reviewing a living will, durable power of attorney or health care proxy since it will help you to understand all of the issues and options in clear detail.

Other Books by Hank Dunn:
Light in the Shadows: Meditations while Living with a Life-Threatening Illness

About the Author:

Hank Dunn is the chaplain at the Hospice of Northern Virginia. He is a frequent speaker on topics like end-of-life decisions and the spiritual life of the caregiver. Previously, he was the chaplain and chairman of the Ethics Committee at the Fairfax Nursing Center in suburban Washington, D.C.

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