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Article
April 17, 1991

Empathy

Author Affiliations

Bronx, NY

Bronx, NY

JAMA. 1991;265(15):1944. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460150046011
Abstract

I joined my parents for lunch at the nursing home. Father's spirits were down, and I hoped a little extra attention might help. Mother, 93 years old, was left without speech after several small strokes. Father, 94, has hyalinosis, a degenerative brain disease, and perhaps a touch of Alzheimer's; his short-term memory is virtually nil, his judgment often wanting. Vigorous for his age until he broke a hip four months ago, he fights the wheelchair, the absorbent underwear, and the physical restraint placed on him during times when the staff is too busy to watch him like hawks lest he involve my mother in actions that would endanger them both. He bitterly denounced the nursing home to me, saying it was "sadistic and a prison." He begged me to bring him poison to end it all.

"For both of us," he added firmly, alluding to Mother.

Having lunch with them

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