Paula Span in The New York Times:
In July, Jennifer O’Brien got the phone call that adult children dread. Her 84-year-old father, who insisted on living alone in rural New Mexico, had broken his hip. The neighbor who found him on the floor after a fall had called an ambulance.
Ms. O’Brien is a health care administrator and consultant in Little Rock, Ark., and the widow of a palliative care doctor; she knew more than family members typically do about what lay ahead. James O’Brien, a retired entrepreneur, was in poor health, with heart failure and advanced lung disease after decades of smoking. Because of a spinal injury, he needed a walker. He was so short of breath that, except for quick breaks during meals, he relied on a biPAP, a ventilator that required a tightfitting face mask. He had standing do-not-resuscitate and do-not-intubate orders, Ms. O’Brien said. They had discussed his strong belief that “if his heart stopped, he would take that to mean that it was his time.”