Lost my Mother this past October to an aortic aneurism that burst in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. My Dad passed in '96 and I have no brothers or sisters so Mom made it clear to me early on what her wishes were - no heroic measures with copies of her power of attorney for health care distributed to me and her docs a few years ago.
Her doc (also my wife's and mine) told me a couple months before her passing about the aneurism and that he felt the best approach was to not tell her. This was difficult but he said surgery for an 86 year old could be disastrous and if she survived she'd probably be less comfortable than without it and most likely not gain more time in this world.
Those couple months were difficult and I still wrestle with pangs of guilt. But like the humane treatment you mention that we give our pets when they reach the end of life phase, I believe deep down that I / we made the right call. I'd always been close with my parents but those last weeks with Mom were even more special for my wife and I (didn't tell others about the aneurism so they wouldn't need to feel any guilt).
Some of the takeaways for me from this experience follow (nothing breakthrough but fresh from recent events):
- Always keep a focus on how your Dad would want to spend these days - it's his process and couldn't be more personal.
- Be sure you're dealing with health care specialists you trust and accept their recommendations but leave no question unasked.
- Accept the situation. If all involved don't, treatment and comfort suffer plus healing for all will be delayed or incomplete.
- Love each other deeply - it's where the strength to get through will come from. Set aside squabbles and get your hearts / heads focused properly.
- Help each other deal with the daily grind. Provide relief to each other when / as needed to cover details and struggle with pain.
- Talk to each other. Express openly and listen with compassion. Also share ideas about treatment details and options.
I could go on but these seem to me to be key aspects of helping and surviving these situations. Good luck and I strongly urge you work very diligently and lovingly to, at least, make the power of attorney for health care available to those who need to know about it. As I understand things the POA-H is part of a proper living will / trust and most importantly outlines what your Dad decided was how he wanted to wrap up his time on Planet Earth.