What is wrong with dying? I am not so sure that extending life to the point of wringing every last drop of breath out of life is the right thing to do.
That is, unless one has unlimited financial resources to buy professional care 24/7. We should not have to put a price on elder care but for most people, the child or children end up bearing the work.
Are we sure we want to continue extending life when life is a body and no memory? Or a good mind but nothing but pain for the body?
I read these stories about all the caregivers doing their best to care for their parents at the cost of their own lives and it is so sad. Been there, done that.
I am NOT talking about assisted suicide. I am saying if an older person has no realistic future of living life on their own, what is wrong with stopping life-extending medications?
Not being a burden on our children is a major concern of the baby boomer generation, as I expressed on the first page of “What to Do about Mama?”
“I am a baby boomer—part of the ‘sandwich generation’ that is taking care of our elderly parents while still providing support for our children. As I write this, I am feeling that the time has come. Baby boomers are on the precipice—getting ready to fall off and land firmly on the backs of our children’s generation. And they are so young! They are, after all, our children!” (p.1)
And again on the last page:
“In the light of my caregiving experience, and with the hope that my children will not have to face avoidable stress, I pledge that: 1) I will not leave my children the burden of my messes; 2) If my children become my caregivers I will not to be stubborn and dead set in my ways; 3) I will relinquish control (at least some of it) to them; and 4) When, in my old age, if I do the things I’ve said I won’t—they may, as I’ve told them, ‘Just show me the book!'” (p. 222)
The issue of extending life is also addressed in the book.
“I acknowledge that broaching the topic of death and dying with parents and family members is very difficult and even painful. We may have living wills that specify that ‘no extraordinary measures’ be taken, but how do we and our family members interpret that directive in the midst of a highly emotional crisis situation? The issue is confusing and complicated to say the least—one that presents huge challenges for the elderly and their caretakers.
I would respectfully suggest, however, that it would behoove us all to have this difficult discussion well before the time of need arises so that decisions for treatment are based on our loved one’s expressed wishes.” p. 160
The issue of sustaining life with medications presented a major decision making point in the caregiving situation that motivated me to write “What to Do about Mama?”
My mother-in-law questioned the Hospice nurse about discontinuing her arrhythmia drug citing contra-indications with circulation. She was looking for a “fixable reason” for her poor circulation, which was causing increasingly numerous ulcers to form on her legs and feet. We knew, of course, that advanced COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) caused by a fifty-year smoking habit, is not fixable, and agreed that it was time to have a family discussion about Mom’s medications. My husband consulted his siblings to assess their opinions about Mom discontinuing her heart drugs. The children were all in agreement that their mother had had a good life, and that they would rather see her go quickly and gently like their father than watch her slowly disintegrate. He then had a very difficult discussion with his mother, and she agreed that it was in her best interest to stop her heart drugs. See full account on pp. 24-26.