Talked to a very good friend of mine yesterday, and she informed me that her Momma's Alzheimer's Disease had progressed to the point where (in her words) she is crazier than a junk yard dawg !
Now, I love her Momma better than grits, and it hurt my heart so bad to hear that.
I HATE that disease. It means you watch your loved one die in bits and pieces and, it is slow and both physically and emotionally draining for the caregiver.
I know she and her Daddy and brother have their hands full, but they are determined to keep her at home as long as they can.
It got me to thinking about my own situation too.
My greatest fear is having to be dependant on others for my care, and I know, with MS, it's very likely that could eventually happen, but I am doing all that I can to prevent it, or at the very least, postpone it, as long as I can.
It's not that I mind someone else taking care of me...I got over that a long time ago...one of the benefit's of 30+ years of Nursing.
I just don't want to be a burden on my family or anyone else.
That's the main thing.
So, I have a living will.
Well, if I had a nickel for all those poor people I witnessed, suffer SO much, throughout my career, because they did NOT have one, I'd be sitting pretty right now...financially, anyway!
My own Grandmother stayed in the hospital on a ventilator for fourteen months (on Medicaid...your dime and mine) begging anyone who would listen, to be taken off of it...but, SHE was deemed incompetent to make that decision for herself at that point, and since all of her children couldn't agree on what to do....she (and they) suffered .
Her little body finally just gave out, but not before she suffered the loss of her independence, the loss of her dignity, the loss of control over her own life.
I saw this happen to so many people, and it is probably one of the hardest aspect's of Nursing.
You want to help, but you also know that most of what you are doing is only prolonging someones misery, and THAT guilt is a bitter pill to swallow!
I later watched my Dad die, after two months of extreme misery, for everyone.
He was SO sick !
But, he had a living will.
He had it drawn up almost immediately after what happened to my Grandmother.
He made the decision three times, to be put on a vent, before he died.
I was his designated health care proxy, and I'll be honest....I was scared to death, that he'd slip into a coma or something, and I'd have to make that decision...so, I DO know how hard it is to be in that place...I still don't know if I could have done it or not, and I am eternally grateful, that I did NOT have to make that call.
I'll go to my grave believing that Daddy decided to die so that we would not have to care for him though.
I was set to bring him home on Monday, and he stayed on me, worrying about how I could take care of him, and WORK !
He was still worrying about ME !
I just kept telling him, "Don't worry about it, we will handle it."
and...we WOULD have, but...a couple of nights before he died... in his "absolute" right mind, he told his Doctor, that he did not want to be put on a ventilator again... insisted that I stay with him that night, which I did, and he spent the entire night, telling me exactly what he expected me to do !
Then, on Saturday, he did slip into that coma, and just after midnight, my sister and step-sister's, who were sitting with me, got up to go to the bathroom, and I stayed in the room with Daddy.
Holding his hand, I felt him tense...
I checked his pulse, which was very rapid and thready at first, then it slowed and became even more erratic...and, I knew he was leaving...
I bent over him and kissed his cheek, and told him, " it was ok... we would be ok, and that God was holding out his hand to him, and that I wanted him to take it and go home"...second hardest thing I have ever done in my life...but, he relaxed and exhaled one last time, and he was gone...but, the presence of God, in that room, was as thick as a foggy morning on the Bay...I felt it as I never had before, and in that moment, my absolute faith in HIM was reassured, and I knew Daddy was ok...but, you will never convince me that he didn't have a part in deciding how his life ended....
So, if and when I wind up in that situation, or if I can't speak for myself, there are clear cut instructions to my family regarding what my wishes are.
I have someone named to be my health care proxy, as well, if, for some reason I can't speak for myself. Someone I trust to carry out my wishes, regarding what I want and DON' T want done.
I will NOT repeat my Grandmother's fate. I will NOT put that burden on my family.
It is something we ALL need to think about...
Having a living will does NOT mean that what you put in it is "written on a rock' though !
YOU can change anything on it, or your health care proxy can, if you can't...at anytime.
So...just PLEASE think about it...
Most of the time, Medicine is admirable and ethical, and works to the advantage of everyone who needs it, but this is not a perfect world, and, Medicine too, is flawed...I would not want to see any of you go through the misery of being at the mercy of Medicine alone.
If you do NOT have a living will...think about getting one....