ONE weekend last year, we asked our vet how we would know when it was time to put down Byron, our elderly dog. Byron was 14, half blind, partly deaf, with dementia, arthritis and an enlarged prostate. He often walked into walls, stood staring vacantly with his tail down, and had begun wandering and whining for reasons we could not always decipher.
Our vet said he used the 50 percent rule: Were at least half of Byron’s days good days? Or was it two bad days for every good? When you get to the latter, he explained, it’s time.
This conversation gave me pause for two reasons. First, what did Byron want? Was 50 percent good enough for him? How about 70? Or 20? There was, of course, no way to know.
Which brings me to my second reason for pause. When not serving as faithful servant to our tiny dog, I am a geriatrician. Because older adults have a greater range of needs and abilities than any other age group, and because there is a national shortage of geriatricians, I care for the frailest and sickest among them.
To many people’s surprise, most of my patients are as satisfied with their lives as they were when they were less debilitated. But this isn’t true for everyone, and some are eager to say they’ve had enough.
Read the whole article in the New York Times here.