Thursday, July 2, 2015

"We really do need to have this discussion"


     Friday's post "Is there a right to die?" was about the frequent torment of  those coping with the end of life. It drew a lot of reader response. This email, from a woman in the Western suburbs, seemed to embody a number of the issues I was trying to address. Rather than read it and drop it down the electronic well, I thought I would share it, not because it is extraordinary, but, just the opposite, because it reflects what happens all too often to people at the ends of their lives and to those who love them. We can do better.

     I had to take over complete care for both of my parents when Dad had a stroke following about three years of colon cancer treatments. The stroke put him into the hospital, and while there, the doctor declared that it was time to call in the hospice angels (not what he called them, but what I think of them as.) At our first meeting, the hospice nurse recommended I get Mom tested for dementia, and my life changed dramatically from that point on.
     But I had to find a place to keep Dad safe immediately, since Mom was unable to care for him at home. She'd been starving herself and weighed only about 80 pounds, so was in no shape to lift him to provide any of the physical care he needed. So I found an assisted living place fairly close to their house in the city. What a dump! Once he moved in there, they put him on a floor of people needing intensive care, since he was bed-ridden. He'd lie in his dirty diaper for hours, fruitlessly ringing the bell, but no one ever came to take care of him. I don't blame the caretakers, but the administration who felt that the inadequate number of caretakers was just fine for the amount of people living there. Anyway, I'd visit Dad and take him on the elevator, down the three flights, so he could have a smoke out front. I found out the male night nurse was stealing his cigarettes. And when Dad would roll himself in the wheelchair down to the elevator, they'd ignore him for hours, leaving him sitting there sadly, and he wasn't allowed to go down to go out front by himself. Sigh.

     After only a couple of days, Dad started asking me hopefully each time I'd visit, "Did you bring my gun with you this time?" I told him I wasn't about to do that. He assured me that he'd take care of things himself, that all I had to do was bring it. I pointed out that they'd know someone brought it to him, and I loved him dearly, but not enough to go to jail for having helped him to commit suicide. For fear that Mom would shoot me as an intruder, I brought my husband with me, and we removed both guns and turned them in at the local precinct. Judging by the behavior of the cops, they never made it into the lock-up, but were probably "lost," then sold somewhere as antiques.
     I moved Dad after only about a week, and the assisted living place refused to refund the 1 month I'd prepaid for his care, insisting it "wasn't their fault" that I was moving him. I didn't want to fight that battle, so I never told Mom about that. I moved him to a place close to my home in the suburbs, and convinced Mom she had to move there also to care for him. Once there, he told me he tried to swallow his pillow, then his blanket, trying to kill himself. No good. Then he tried to swallow his own tongue...that didn't work either. He was an atheist, so he yelled at any religious folks that tried to visit him in his last days. He lived for 2 months after I moved him out here. But he kept telling me to "Leave the door open, and tell that old sod, the Grim Reaper, to get his ass on down here, since I'm tired of waiting for him."   

     Dad had been a carpenter for 50 years. Up until the day of his stroke, he walked many miles a day to the local Dunkin Donuts, for coffee and for the exercise. He'd been an accomplished ballroom dancer, and told me once, sadly, that in his dreams, he could still dance. And the greatest humiliation of his life was having total strangers, young women, changing his diapers. The only thing worse would have been if I did it. If I could have helped him to an assisted suicide, I would gladly have done it, to make his last days less miserable...especially since he kept telling me thatif I really loved him, I'd help him to end things. He was ready to go from the time they told him he'd be bedridden for the rest of what life he had left. He told me he hadn't taken many of his prescriptions because though they were supposed to extend his life, he wasn't sure he would like the kind of life they were going to extend.
     We really do need to have this discussion a lot. People should be able, when they're legally compos mentis, to make the decision that they're ready to go, and to die in their own time, and not have to wait around, suffering and/or bored.
     And as both of my parents had done for me, I prepaid for husband's and my cremation, so all our kids will have to do is make a single phone call, and things will be taken care of. As a society, we don't like to think or talk about death, though it's a certainty for everyone. It's time we started acting like adults, not frightened children. We need to discuss these issues openly. and hopefully without giving equal importance to the views of some religions, when we don't all believe in the same things.

25 comments:

  1. I admire this woman for her willingness to share her sad story. I am convinced my father caused his own heart attack/stroke while going through a simple procedure. Adult onset diabetes had wracked and wrecked his body for almost 20 years, and the dialysis was the last straw for him. The night before, he had told me goodbye and as we took him off life support, I realized he had said goodbye for the last time. Euthanasia should not be a choice only for our pets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One evening as i was about to go to bed i felt i some strange movement around all my body and before i know i could not move my body again. my wife had to call 911 and i was taken to the hospital it was there i find out that it was stroke. I spent months in the hospital could not recover from it. i did all i could to make sure this stroke do not over power me. Until one day a came across a post of this great man DR Alaska John and how him have been curing people with his powerful product. Quickly contacted him and told him about my problem and i was told what to do and today i cant even remember that i had such problem before because am totally and permanently cured from it. For his product and you need his help to over come the followings
      Stoke
      Weak erection
      Diabetes
      virginal pain
      Please contact him for a permanent cure at dralaskajohn@gmail.com or call +2348105275722

      Delete
  2. Thanks for sharing the email. Wish I could have told the woman some suburban asst. livings would be much better. I'm not sure if he was on Medicaid or not. Yes, for older men of a certain generation, it would be hard to have a young aide change them. I don't believe and neither did my dad that their daughters should be changing their underthings. It's a good thing my dad's mind was gone by the time he had to have young aides change them. He'd be horrified otherwise.

    Euthanasia must be supported moreso.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One evening as i was about to go to bed i felt i some strange movement around all my body and before i know i could not move my body again. my wife had to call 911 and i was taken to the hospital it was there i find out that it was stroke. I spent months in the hospital could not recover from it. i did all i could to make sure this stroke do not over power me. Until one day a came across a post of this great man DR Alaska John and how him have been curing people with his powerful product. Quickly contacted him and told him about my problem and i was told what to do and today i cant even remember that i had such problem before because am totally and permanently cured from it. For his product and you need his help to over come the followings
      Stoke
      Weak erection
      Diabetes
      virginal pain
      Please contact him for a permanent cure at dralaskajohn@gmail.com or call +2348105275722

      Delete
  3. I've never understood why we force the elderly who do not wish it to extend their lives, even if "surviving" means pain, suffering and misery for them and others. In my mind, it's not just wrong, but in some instances it's inhumane. I certainly hope that when that time comes for me, our society's fear of euthanasia is gone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As baby boomers will make up most of the elderly population in the years to come, I believe we'll see more acceptance in letting their families control end of life issues, including assisted suicide if needed.

      Delete
    2. One evening as i was about to go to bed i felt i some strange movement around all my body and before i know i could not move my body again. my wife had to call 911 and i was taken to the hospital it was there i find out that it was stroke. I spent months in the hospital could not recover from it. i did all i could to make sure this stroke do not over power me. Until one day a came across a post of this great man DR Alaska John and how him have been curing people with his powerful product. Quickly contacted him and told him about my problem and i was told what to do and today i cant even remember that i had such problem before because am totally and permanently cured from it. For his product and you need his help to over come the followings
      Stoke
      Weak erection
      Diabetes
      virginal pain
      Please contact him for a permanent cure at dralaskajohn@gmail.com or call +2348105275722

      Delete
  4. Agree, we are late to this issue. Funny the things we are squeamish about in this country. All I could do for my mom was tell the nurse to increase the morphine, knowing it would help her die sooner.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good point, Mr. Bass,

    Yet, there groups in society,-cancer centers, big pharma, hospitals, etc who make money from these miserable patients extending their lives.

    Another question is will life insurance pay up if it's assisted suicide? They normally don't for regular suicide, I understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And of course asst living centers or sr. care can make big money on people living longer, when they can no longer be cared for by spouse and grown children.

      Delete
    2. That's an excellent question re: life insurance, something I hadn't considered. I would think not paying would be fair. Agreed that $$$ are at play, as well as religious mores.

      Delete
    3. As I understand it, most life insurance policies will pay for cases of suicide, so long as the policy has been in force long enough.

      Delete
  6. Just to play Satan's Solicitor:

    "Euthanasia … is a door no community should open until human corruption has ceased to exist." -- Hugh Downs

    Money does very strange, sometimes horrible, things to people's minds. Even family. Impartial protections have to be put in place to make sure such actions are truly desired and voluntary.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, that is also something to consider. We don't want people helping them along, so they get an inheritance, even if small, rather than the senior home getting it. I've been to sites on elder care where some people turn themselves into slaves so they don't have to sell the folks house and give the $ to the sr. home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But then they start wearing out...or grow weary of the care...

      Delete
  8. Some years ago I got a phone call notifying me that my 86-year old, long widowed mother had been found dead in her home. Apparently a heart attack, although she had seemed in excellent health and in charge of her faculties. At the funeral a parade of old dears came up to tell my brother and I how lucky we all were, especially her. They all shared her horror of being "institutionalized."

    Having subsequently witnessed more difficult end of life scenarios of friends and relatives I now know what they meant..

    And if you're afraid your heirs will want to help you shuffle off the old mortal coil in order to preserve their inheritance, buy a good long-term insurance policy.

    Tom Evans

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't have a life insurance policy. I have funeral plot and funeral paid for. And I think that all of my relatives know that I would rather feed the worms than have anything done for me after I die. My husband has life insurance, and as long as he's living (and before he retires) will be the primary breadwinner – and my kids are old enough that they're not as needy of parental support. AS FOR EUTHANASIA – that question is so difficult! I have MS, and I suppose that some people may not approve of my "quality of life." I can't dress myself; I can't cook for myself (even microwave); I can't even go to the bathroom by myself! But I am not ready for euthanasia! I have a whole lot more living to do!! Euthanasia or doctor assisted suicide are fabulous ideas, and I do think that it should not be reserved for our animals were in pain! But I'm not sure what needs to be in place to make sure that it's not abused!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bravo! You are a testament to the life force.

      But to clarify things a bit, there is a difference between euthanasia, what is often termed "mercy killing," and physician-assisted suicide. The former is probably more common than acknowledged -- who knows just when an added dose of morphine becomes lethal instead of palliative? The latter, in which the physician only provides the means is now legal in four U.S. states (although criminalized in a number of other states) and has been for some years in Switzerland, Luxemburg and the Netherlands.

      Deciding when 'enough is enough' is obviously a personal decision, and steps must be taken to ensure it is not taken lightly. But so far there doesn't seem to be evidence of abuses where physician-assisted suicide has been legalized.

      Persons who object on religious grounds are entitled to their views but should, I think, push hard for advances in palliative medicine as a practical means of saving people from damnation.

      Tom Evans

      Delete
  10. Ms Woerner, I doubt those speaking of euthanasia here have your situation in mind, of course not. I'm sure you have aides to help you. Best wishes and thanks for your candor.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I hope the lady who sent the email, complained loudly to the administration. She could also have gone to their corporate higher ups or reported them to govt agencies for seniors.

    ReplyDelete
  12. In a recent New Yorker there was an article about euthanasia in Belgium, where it's so accepted that it's available even to people whose illnesses are purely mental, like chronic depressives.

    I'm not sure if that's a good idea. But it just boggles my mind that another developed country is that far along, while here we deny death assistance to even the most painfully, morbidly ill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We lag on many health-care related indexes. Fortunately, most Americans are too ignorant of the facts to be embarrassed.

      Delete
  13. One evening as i was about to go to bed i felt i some strange movement around all my body and before i know i could not move my body again. my wife had to call 911 and i was taken to the hospital it was there i find out that it was stroke. I spent months in the hospital could not recover from it. i did all i could to make sure this stroke do not over power me. Until one day a came across a post of this great man DR Alaska John and how him have been curing people with his powerful product. Quickly contacted him and told him about my problem and i was told what to do and today i cant even remember that i had such problem before because am totally and permanently cured from it. For his product and you need his help to over come the followings
    Stoke
    Weak erection
    Diabetes
    virginal pain
    Please contact him for a permanent cure at dralaskajohn@gmail.com or call +2348105275722

    ReplyDelete
  14. One evening as i was about to go to bed i felt i some strange movement around all my body and before i know i could not move my body again. my wife had to call 911 and i was taken to the hospital it was there i find out that it was stroke. I spent months in the hospital could not recover from it. i did all i could to make sure this stroke do not over power me. Until one day a came across a post of this great man DR Alaska John and how him have been curing people with his powerful product. Quickly contacted him and told him about my problem and i was told what to do and today i cant even remember that i had such problem before because am totally and permanently cured from it. For his product and you need his help to over come the followings
    Stoke
    Weak erection
    Diabetes
    virginal pain
    Please contact him for a permanent cure at dralaskajohn@gmail.com or call +2348105275722

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.